Ladakh Demonstrators Want Statehood and Legitimacy
By Sara Nazir
India is the largest democratic country again fails in democratic values. The recent protests in Ladakh for statehood reflect the Indian government's bias towards the conflicted regions. Despite being the world's largest democratic state, India is unable to provide democratic rights to the people of Ladakh and fulfill the promises that were made three years back. Right after the three years of Union Territory (UT), a massive protest breaks out in Ladakh for recognition and statehood.
Ladakh is an administrative territory of India that became a Union Territory back in 2019. Since the partition, Ladakh remains under the control of India like other parts of the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu & Kashmir (IIOJK). Ladakh is again a contentious point for India and Pakistan due to its strategic location which makes it significant for India and Pakistan but also China as well. It links India with Central Asia, South Asia, China, Pakistan, and the Middle East, and it is the site of the massive Siachen glacier. Historically, it served as a hub of trade along the Silk Road, serving as a link between India and Tibet and Central Asia.
The cornerstone for Ladakh's UT status was created in February 2019 by announcing the award of a divisional position to Ladakh, resulting in the creation of three provinces: Jammu, Kashmir, and Ladakh. People at the time paid little attention to the development. Nevertheless, with the repeal of Article 370, the Jammu and Kashmir constitution allows for two distinct UTs: Jammu and Kashmir on the one side, and Ladakh on another side. Due to the geopolitical significance of Ladakh, Initially, the Indian government paid little attention to the region and that is the cause behind the happiness of people in Ladakh for the abrogation of Article 370 (which has granted them the status of UT).
The recent protest across the Ladakh valley shows that India is suppressing their fundamental and democratic rights which forces them to raise their voices against the Indian so-called democratic government. The region wants to get full statehood and a separate constitution from the Indian government and forces, where they can live independently under a separate constitution with a separate identity.
Rallies were coordinated by the Leh-based People's Movement for the Sixth Schedule and Kargil Democratic Alliance (KDA). The two organizations have pulled up Buddhists and Muslims to campaign for legitimate democratic power. According to Ladakh's leadership, this is the start of their battle to gain constitutionally protected rights, and they will shortly unveil their program for 2023, which will last until 2024. After the organization of protests in Kashmir, the Leh Apex Body and the Kargil Democratic Alliance have arranged a series of protests to press their demands. Indian government's negligence and selfishness have pushed the people to rebel which will later be given the name of religious extremists like India did in the case of Kashmir.
Minorities in India are becoming increasingly separated from society as India is not a safe place for minorities. They are unable to exercise their autonomy in the state. Under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Muslim community is already being deprived of the right to live and the freedom to express themselves ad top of the list we have an example of Kashmir. The way the Indian government treats the Minorities in India reflects their Hindutva mindset, which is a threat to people from different religions. The safeguarding of both political and cultural identity as well as the right to self-determination are essential human rights. The assurance of such rights for oppressed regions appears to have disappeared in the contemporary Indian politics. The continuing demonstrations in Ladakh must warn the world community since the people's fundamental rights are being violated by the repeal of their unique constitutional status.
The situation became more challenging for the Indian government because it would be difficult for the government to take any decision which will be benefited the people of Ladakh. It would also be intriguing to observe how the Kashmir situation develops, considering that the key route connecting Ladakh to the rest of the world runs via Kashmir. This highway transports all vital products and commodities to Ladakh, and if circumstances throughout the Kashmir Region somehow don't stabilize, the Indian government authorities may need to find alternate routes to carry supplies to Ladakh.
The author has done MS in Strategic Studies from Air University Islamabad and currently teaching as visiting faculty in International Islamic University Islamabad. She writes on South Asian security and strategic issues.