Ladakh : Pandora's Box Made In Kashmiri Imagination

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Some Kashmiri dude has written an article about Ladakh : Pandora’s Box Made In Leh

Not using names, since these guys mostly seem to act on pseudonym, so I don’t know what and if to use. For my purposes, “author” suffices.

Looking at how we don’t have Ladakh fighting a Twitter war, I thought I’d share my experiences and conversations around the subject to refute the garbage that is being dumped on the reputation of a land that was my home for a long enough time.

This… person refers to Ladakh’s desire to be a Union Territory as pretty much Leh’s evil conspiracy on…. who? Not clear. Apparently its Ladakh Leh is exploiting. Hmmm. Some half-way down the article we come across this gem – which pretty much seems to be what he wants to say without the melodrama and historic fantasies.

The Buddhist groups of Leh want to use the turmoil in state as an excellent opportunity to slice away political concessions for itself where they get to gain absolute power in Ladakh, thereby marginalizing and overriding the political rights of other non Buddhist groups in Ladakh including Muslims & Christians.

So, is this person a Buddhist of Ladakh? Obviously not. Yet he seems to know their fate at the hands of the “evil Leh Buddhists” better than they do, apparently. He speaks of Ladakhi Muslims, who are mostly found in Drass, Kargil, Nubra and now Leh in more recent years. Yet, out of a 40% population of Muslims, where were they in the informal surveys that apparently didn’t register any freedom wishes?

There is no hiding the fact that Ladakh is desperate to dissociate from Kashmir. It is as much an “excellent opportunity to slice away political concessions” as the Azadi demand is. Kashmiris want their Azadi claiming a separate culture, but can’t comprehend anyone not wanting to be with them?

Without getting into history, which seems to be a Kashmiri obsession, I can tell you what Ladalkhis told me – no middlemen. No political stuff either, actually.

  • Ladakh is a Buddhist culture which is more similar to Tibetan Buddhism than Indian. In India, the closest cultural similarity would be Lahaul and Spiti – both in Himachal, though they do maintain a distinct identity from them as well.
  • Ladakh, Lahaul, Spiti….. none of these have any military history. In fact, their traditional means of dealing with invasions was to evacuate their villages and hide with their valuables and families in the high mountains till the plundering armies left. Islamic aggression in itself worries them. Not just militancy, but the tendency of Muslims to “consolidate” their presence everywhere they go. They do not wish the Buddhist feel of the valley to change, and they are well aware that they will not have a choice once there is a significant population of Muslims. They simply see the Kashmiri Muslims as aliens to their culture, and not desirable aliens.
  • Not that they have any particular fondness for India either. They see the Indian Army as a necessary evil, but given a choice between the risk of Kashmiri “freedom fighters” and the Army, they will take the Army, abuses and all. Not that the Army seems to get into much abuse as such over there, beyond their regular bullying ways. There is a kind of resigned acceptance. At least among the Ladakhis I met.
  • They criticized the Army, sure, but I didn’t hear anyone want them out. I did hear a lot of hate for the Kashmiri freedom struggle itself. They believe it is totally Pakistan’s way of capturing territory. They have no beliefs that Kashmir should be a separate country. At least not among those I met. Though seeing as how they maintain a distinct identity, I wouldn’t be surprised if they prefer India rather than freedom for their own security. Considering that, the Union Territory status makes perfect sense.
  • “The UT demand of Ladakh may be supported by some Leh Buddhist groups, but not by the majority in Ladakh.” I don’t know about the demand, since my conversations were not political at that time, but I do know for certain that among the people I met in the whole of Ladakh, I did not meet a single Buddhist who felt any affinity at all for Kashmiri Muslims, though Ladakhi Muslims seem somewhat integrated. As traders, they (Kashmiri Muslims) had reputations for being cheats/overcharging, which I remember thinking at that time that it can’t be true for every Kashmiri Muslim, and is simply another way of distancing them.
  • I have lived among people in the Changthang briefly, and they are more concerned about security than I thought likely considering the remoteness and distance from Kashmir. They believe China is a risk because of Kashmiri Muslims. They are nomads living outdoors in far worse temperatures than the ones that were being Twittered about.
  • It is true there are a few Muslims in other places, but frankly, I don’t know what they thought. My relationships mostly being through the local Buddhist family in Manali that I lived with, were largely of a Buddhist tendency, though I do remember thinking of Kashmir as this romantic, beautiful place I remembered from my childhood visit before the militancy started.
  • It is totally false to claim that Ladakh is “projected” as a Buddhist place. It IS a Buddhist land. The Muslims are largely settled in Drass, Kargil, Nubra, and now Leh and they are perfectly visible. They didn’t strike me as the invisible types. Where else is the Muslim presence that would prevent it from being Buddhist and only pretending?
  • On the contrary, the Leh that has a staunch Muslim presence is the one where Buddhists are exploiting the rest of Ladakh, Muslims and Christians? Nor do I think The Muslims are particularly oppressed. I remember some very strong support for Palestine against Israel that was predominantly Muslim. The Buddhists I found were mostly interested in their region. There definitely is resistance toward Muslims, and many Ladakhis were quite unhappy at the increased number of Muslims in Leh post Kargil. But I fail to see how that translates as the non-Leh Buddhists wanting to be part of an independent Kashmir. Also, it would be the height of hypocricy for a Kashmiri Muslim to talk about suppression of Muslim minorities. Forget the Hindu migration, there are too many practiced responses on both sides. What about the Christians you are so concerned about? Does Kashmir treat them better than Ladakh? Do you think that “unoppressed Christians want to be a part of independent Kashmir? What do you base this on?
  • About this “Leh” thing. LADAKH is a vast region. Its not the sum total of Leh, Kargil, Zanskar and Drass. There exists a Ladakh beyond the Muslim populations. Drass and Kargil are like sitting on the fence of Ladakh and Kashmir. Its like saying, okay, Sopore is Kashmir. Lamayuru, Hemis, Stok, Thikse, Shey, Likir, Alchi – among many others are the seats of learning in Ladakh. You may want to visit some time. Nice monastaries, about a thousand years old give or take. Savaged by invaders, but enduring cultures. There is the entire Nubra valley. There is the vast Changthang. Believe me, Drass and Kargil wouldn’t even have been on the radar of consciousness as Ladakh if it weren’t for the Pakistani incursions. They still aren’t the first thing to come to mind about Ladakh.
  • Considering the utter lack of military history for this region, and their non-alliance with any other place, if Leh indeed threatened militancy, it can’t be called a threat so much as a measure of their desperation for the survival of their identity. The region gets entirely locked every winter and they are not interested across either border except Gilgit Baltistan, but not independent or in Pakistan – as in, not in its present state. How much of militancy are they going to do? For them, the lack of Hindus in Kashmir is a big freaking alarm bell ringing in their head on the subject of Kashmir. That is pretty much the pillar of proof for them. It isn’t one you can deny. They can’t have a hope of matching the militant power of Kashmir. The only recourse they have is political. How can they be blamed for it, above all things by a Kashmiri fighting for a separate identity himself? Tunhari Azadi Azadi, unki Azadi majaak?
  • On the subject of Christians, Christians on the whole I have seen are largely okay with being there and doing their stuff. I can’t imagine them prefering the status of being Christian in Kashmir over being Christian in Ladakh. However, I can say, that I don’t have much knowledge of this matter. The only “problem” as such that I sensed might be a dislike for conversion activities, which I think is pretty much staple when it comes to non-converting religious populations feeling invaded by conversions. I don’t think its a Ladakh special. Nor do I think either Christians or Muslims or Buddhists can be blamed for what they feel. Each has their own ideas of religion.
  • About Leh being more developed than say… Kargil…? Its pretty much the same as Srinagar being more developed than Baramulla. On the subject of tourism….. you are so wrong its not funny. Ladakh is NOT starved of tourism outside Leh. I don’t know a single person who would go to Leh for Leh itself. The monasteries, Nubra, Khardungla in particular, Tsomoriri, Pangongtso… jeep destinations. Trekkers pretty much avoid Leh – their interest is entirely different and there are trekking routes so famous, they can be called legendary. Lamayuru, Hemis, Parangla, Chaddar trail.. there are dozens. Leh has an airport, sure, but the two day road journey ferries far more tourists – one day, these days because of the better roads you mention, but better be in the jeep at 4am in Manali. Sure, Kargil gets far less tourism, but that is less about Leh than its tourism averse neighbour Kashmir. If the tourists can’t get in/out through Kashmir, it becomes going out of the way to go to Kargil. It is as simple as that. AND Kashmir had far more tourism and still has far more tourist potential than Ladakh. Kashmir has pretty much voluntarily destroyed its own tourism while “evil India” keeps trying to push it. Srinagar has an airport too. It is not used for tourism. If you are holding the Leh Buddhists responsible for all this, I can only say that if Kashmiris think India doesn’t know them, Kashmiris themselves know even less about the Ladakh they think is a part of their ‘country’.
  • I have no clue on the airport bit. Kargil does have an airport, but its not for civilians. I don’t know why its not for civilians. I don’t think there is any rule that says civilian airports should be built on demand. It isn’t all that far from Srinagar/Leh and considering the sparse population as well. But whatever, don’t you think its a little rich to be bitching about an “evil occupying power” because it didn’t build you an airport where you wanted it? I mean, evil powers aren’t supposed to make you happy, are they?
  • I cannot honestly say that Ladakh wants freedom or union with India or whatever, since I never asked this specific question to anyone. However, considering that I was in the region post ’99 (’99 was Kargil War), I think its fair to say I had an idea of their opinion on the Kashmir issue. I find myself totally believing this desire to be the Ladakhi voice.
  • India has more Muslims than Pakistan, but apparently Kashmiri Muslims can’t find their identity as a part of it. What commonality does the Kashmiri culture have with the Buddhists that they would feel they can find their identity in Kashmir?
  • Even if what you said is true, and the demand for Union Territory is a Leh only thing, I still can’t imagine Ladakh thinking it a bad idea. I definitely cannot imagine Ladakh rejecting the idea out of solidarity for Kashmir or something.

I accept that I am not a Ladakhi, and I am not claiming to speak on behalf of Ladakh. I am simply stating my reasons for calling the original article by the Kashmiri propagandist a pile of bull shit. The reasons are mine, the perceptions are mine and they have been formed in a social and non-political context. I am actually not claiming that I know Ladakh wants to join India, because I haven’t heard that either. I am only saying that the demand for a Union Territory sounds consistent with what I heard and a conspiracy to exploit Ladakh via Kashmir or some such ridiculous idea is too far fetched to make any sense at all.

I also am not denying history, but simply sharing that experiential realities are far more powerful motivators than records – as Kashmir itself experiences in the effectiveness of its stone pelters protesting current military abuse rather than those spouting history.

I am sad to say that the original article is an example of the moral bankruptcy of the Kashmiri author, who denies Ladakh the very sentiments he claims at the cost of life and limb for himself. I would have expected one who stands a test of fire to come out more true.

Note: This article hasn’t been proof-read as mine usually are, since chotu is now awake and wanting mom. I am aware that there are changes in person between first and third. I am essentially addressing the author of the article. Corrections in the interest of grammar will be made when I have time. I will also reference data. At the moment, I have just written this off the top of my head, more as an answer to that article than a proper article in itself.

Note-note: I lived a nomadic life. This represents my memories many different people, not one village in some corner somewhere. I could be mistaken, but it would take a Ladakhi to correct me, just like it would take a Kashmiri to correct me on today’s Kashmir, and not a politician or soldier.

I do promise to admit on this blog itself and set the record straight if needed.

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About the Author

Vidyut
Vidyut is a blogger on issues of National interest. Staunch advocate of rights, learning and freedoms. @Vidyut

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