30 Jan 2008, 1211 hrs IST
Thupstan Chhewang, belonging to the Royals of Leh is a highly respected Ladakhi leader who was once president of Ladakh Congress party. His one member party in Parliament is supporting UPA. He was also the firebrand leader of Ladakh Buddhist Association, which led a phenomenal movement against socio-political discrimination by Srinagar's communal governance in late eighties resulting in the formation of Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council. His unassuming soft spoken personality exudes confidence and a rare dedication for the cause of his people and the nation. If he has raised an alarm on the Chinese incursions in Ladakh it must be taken seriously. Of late Ladakh has been witnessing a continuous trespassing by Chinese shepherds and soldiers in Chushul area where we fought a famous war of Trishul mountains led by Major Shaitan Singh (who received Param Vir Chakra after his and his brave men's bodies were discovered one year after their martyrdom) and in the vast grass lands near Demchok. It's the point where a nullah defines the Line of Actual Control (LAC). Indus enters India at this point from the Kailas Manasarovar region in western Tibet and it is a region great scintillating natural beauty. The people of Ladakh have been demanding opening of this route to reach Kailas Manasarovar in a shorter and safer way. Chinese are known to enter our region in a clandestine manner. In the initial stage they would do it through innocent passages into our territory using shepherds, soldiers and traders. If caught, they would say, oh nothing to worry we simply went wayward. If not, it continues for years, the intruders would leave their marks, some properties and cattle too. Make some permanent bases. Later these small 'marks' would be used to claim that 'since ages' Chinese have been using that piece of land - see the 'proofs'! We were caught napping during Kargil intrusion. When patriotic Ladakhi shepherds told the Army about Pakistani intrusions initially, it was not taken seriously. In the same way alarms about the latest Chinese intrusion are being taken lightly and in some 'strategic' quarters its being suggested that such talks would hamper the growing trade between the two nations. Sometime back a BJP Member of Parliament from Arunachal, Kiren Rijiju, had created a furore by claiming that Chinese are intruding in the state. He had even mentioned particular spots where the intrusion had taken place. Again the state and the Centre were swift in ridiculing the allegation and as recent as December Defence Minister A.K. Antony told reporters, when asked about reports of alleged incursion of Indian territories and removal of a few forward posts by China, 'I don't want to go into details. As far as Indian territories are concerned nothing has happened," The fact is that the Chinese have a focussed military presence in this area and that's the reason of their silence over Indian demand to open the route to Manasarovar via Demchok. I had taken up this issue four times during my stint as the member of India-China Eminent Persons' Group formed by the Ministry of External Affairs. Every time we raised the issue, the Chinese side would listen attentively but nothing would come out of it ever. Not even a written acknowledgement. Now a few facts: Out of 2,22,236 sq kms of the J&K state, Jammu has 26,293 sq kms and Ladakh 1,38,942 sq kms. It must be remembered that 78,114 sq kms of the state is under illegal occupation of Pakistan, 37,555 sq kms under illegal occupation of China and 5,180 sq kms have been illegally handed over to China by Pakistan. While Ladakh constitutes 69.60 % of the state's total land area, Kashmir valley, the most turbulent and vocal one is just 11.48 % and Jammu 18.92 %. Within Ladakh, Buddhist majority district Leh has 45,110 sq kms and Shia Muslim majority district Kargil has 13,000 sq kms. While Kargil has shown an extraordinary growth in population of 17.34 % in the years between 1981to 1991, Leh population grew at the rate of just 9.10 %. Even in Leh district the population of Muslims increased from 15.32 % in 1981 to 18.37 % in 1991 (projected). Buddhists fear an assault on their culture and traditions through the conversion of Buddhist girls and a planned effort to outnumber Buddhists through a population aggression. In 1992 an agreement was signed between the Ladakh Muslim Association and Ladakh Buddhist Association, the supreme organization of Ladakh representing Buddhists, at the intervention of Ministry of Home Affairs ensuring that the Buddhists converted to Islam shall be allowed to return to their original faith, but the Muslims never honoured the agreement. The following points were raised by the Buddhist Association in a memorandum to the Central Government - 1. During 1992-99, 24 Buddhist girls from Leh district were converted to Islam and majority of them were taken to Kargil. 2. Twelve villages with hamlets of Buddhists, comprising 651 families (numbering app. 5000 persons) located at 40 to 60 kms from Kargil town were targeted for conversions. Till 2002, 72 boys and girls were converted to Islam as per the survey conducted by the Ladakh Buddhist Association. 3. Muslims of Kargil are not allowing the LBA to repair and reconstruct a 40 year old. Gompa comprising three rooms and at present lying in shambles. 4. Cremation of dead Buddhists is not allowed at Kargil and the body has to be moved at a remote Buddhist area. 5. No Buddhist Sarai is allowed to be constructed at Kargil though there has been a demand for the last 35 years. 6. Six new mosques have been constructed at Leh town during 1989-99 in close vicinity of Buddhist habitations and in a planned manner more than 540 Muslim families have been settled at Leh, majority of them coming from Kargil. 7. Kargil has 20% Buddhist population. Yet (a) only one Buddhist was appointed as patwari out of 24 patwaris, the rest were all Muslims. (b) In 1998, 40 employees for class IV were appointed in education department, out of these only one was Buddhist, that too after his conversion to Islam.
Similar complaints, with proven statistics were given regarding discrimination against Buddhists in the Kashmir Administrative Services (KAS), admission to medical and engineering colleges, and allocation of development funds received from the Centre. Needless to say such discriminations would fuel the anger and communalise the polity in an ugly manner if proper corrections are not made immediately. Though the Central government and Indian Army have been helping the people of Kashmir Valley at the cost of the other states' development, the unrest and anti-Indian feelings in the Valley have shown an increase rather than getting subsided. But the patriotic Buddhist population of Ladakh is being 'punished' by the Central and the state government both for political reasons. The administration in Leh is controlled by the sultans of Srinagar. The Leh Autonomous Development Council which has a majority of those members demanding a separate Union Territory status for Ladakh (under a political entity of UP Morcha) so that they are unshackled from the communal bondage of Srinagar, is discriminated against by local district commissioner and police superintendent. No amount of complaints gets any result. Buddhist leaders like Chhewang ask if they are being punished for their loyalty and patriotism. No government has considered the complaints of the local Ladakhi Buddhists seriously. In January 2000, a news report appeared that stated the pain and agony of the Buddhists. It read: ‘President of Ladakh Buddhist Association Mr Samphal said between 1992 and 1999, 24 women had been forced to adopt Islam and the state government had "misinformed" the Union Home Ministry that some of the women had married Muslim youths willingly. He said some Buddhist women "had been whisked away" to Kashmir where court documents were "clandestinely" prepared to show that the Buddhist women had married the Muslim youths willingly. 'Mr Samphal has requested the Union Home Minister to intervene and ensure that 39 Buddhist students who had been taken away from Ladakh by some Christian missionaries were brought back to the land of lamas before they were forced to adopt Christianity.' (Jan 12, 2000, Tribune News Service). When the UPA government took over, the first thing they did to Ladakh was to change the name of the world famous Sindhu Darshan Festival to Ladakh Singhey Khabab Spring Festival because, as the minister stated on record, the name Sindhu Darshan smacked of 'Hindu Darshan'! This is the attitude towards the national integration of this secular government. Recently in December 2007 a delegation of Ladakhi leaders had a meeting with the Prime Minister and demanded inclusion of their Bhoti language in the eighth schedule and a non-discriminatory behaviour by the Congress led government of J&K. Though the language of Kashmir valley is Kashmiri, yet due to communal reasons they chose to have Urdu as their state language and the same is imposed on Ladakhi Buddhists too, ignoring their traditional Bhoti language. Their memorandum submitted to Dr. Manmohan Singh stated, 'The Congress-led state government is treating the duly-elected Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC-Leh) with utter contempt. A reign of terror and repression has been let loose against us by the Congress-led state government in Jammu and Kashmir.’ ‘The police have been set upon on us as a clearly pre-meditated strategy to browbeat us into submission. The forcible closure of the headquarters of the Ladakh Buddhist Association (LBA), framing of false criminal cases including murder and attempt to murder against its office-bearers, police assault on an elected Ladakh Union Territory Front (LUTF) councillor, disrespect being shown to the Chairman and Chief Executive Councillor of the LAHDC and a campaign of calumny against the LUTF chief.’ ‘How can policemen or bureaucrats be allowed to ride roughshod over a democratic dispensation? How can they treat our social and religious organisations with utter contempt? Their wrong-doings have strengthened our resolve to keep striving for Union Territory for we want to strengthen what we regard as our umbilical chord with New Delhi.’ I would quote a few lines from a famous international journalist Barbara Crossette's report appeared in The New York Times on September 13, 1989- ' The disturbances, which began in July after a Muslim-Buddhist brawl in Leh's main bazaar, became more intense and larger after Aug. 27, when the Kashmiri state police fired on a Buddhist demonstration, killing three people. The police also arrested the president of the Buddhist Association, Thupsthan Chhewang, a member of Ladakh's former royal family. The unrest in Ladakh adds a dangerous dimension to a generally deteriorating political situation in Jammu and Kashmir, India's most sensitive border state. Militant Muslim groups in Srinagar, the state capital, and the surrounding Valley of Kashmir have sustained a year-long campaign of violence that is becoming more openly separatist. On Aug. 14, Pakistani Independence Day, and on Aug. 17, the anniversary of the death in an air crash in 1988 of Pakistan's President, Mohammad Zia ul-Haq, Kashmiri militants in Srinagar and other towns plastered posters bearing General Zia's portrait on buildings and bridges. A Pakistani flag was hoisted over state office buildings.' What has changed since then? The separatists and traitors are being appeased by the secular government in Delhi and Srinagar but the patriots, who have fought most valiantly all the wars with Pakistan and China, bringing home highest decorations given the martyred soldiers are being treated with contempt. Himalayas, was once called the unconquerable security wall of the grand Aryavarta i.e. Hindustan. The myth fell apart in '62 aggression by the Chinese and still neither the younger generation nor the sunset leadership in politics seems to be much bothered about securing the security wall, nature had so thoughtfully gifted us. From J&K to Arunachal, we have Ladakh, Himachal, Uttaranchal, UP and Bihar's border area with Nepal, Sikkim and Assam reaching up to the Tawang region of Arunachal on this belt. Not a single spot can be said to be a secure and unthreatened one and the fears of disturbance are increasing by the day on this entire belt. While Ladakh, Himachal, Uttaranchal, UP and Bihar are basically threatened by Islamic Jihadis and their population aggression with active hub centres in their madrassas, presently joined by the Communist terrorists in the guise of Maoists, the North Eastern region is rife with Church supported insurgent movements. The heights of Himalayas are endangered under the secular anti-patriotism dispensation.