One year on, uncertainty prevails in Ladakh

One year on, uncertainty prevails in Ladakh

Srinagar: People in Leh and Kargil are facing uncertainty as the Central government has not made any new domicile law, or for the preservation of jobs for the local youth.

After the 5August 2019 declaration that people of Ladakh will feel free in the new Union Territory to be directly controlled by the Central government without legislature, there has been no visible change either on ground or in the minds of people living here.

The exclusion of Ladakhi youth from employment opportunities from the recent recruitment process of J&K Bank triggered protest and shutdown last Friday in the entire UT of Ladakh.

According to reports from Leh and Kargil, people are filled with suspicion, especially youth, as even a year after being declared as a separate Union Territory, no laws have been framed for the preservation of their distinct identity etc.

“We were expecting fast development, more jobs and preservation of our identity. Nothing has happened for us so far. We have genuine fears for our future,” said Raza Ali, a student of Leh who participated in the recent protests. People of Kargil have twin uncertainties. On the one hand, they fear discrimination at the hands of Buddhists of Leh and, on the other hand, they feel shrinking job opportunities. “We want to be part of J&K state as and when statehood is restored. People of Kargil (majority of us) want to be a part of Kashmir,” said Qamar Ali Akhoon, a former minister and senior leader of Kargil of the National Conference. He told this paper that youth of Kargil are facing discrimination and have no chance to get equal treatment in the new Union Territory of Ladakh. Recently, students in Ladakh made a united action forum known as Ladakh Students’ Educational and Environmental Action Forum which gave a call of shutdown on Friday last against them being excluded from the recruitment process of J&K Bank.

“All youth of UT of Ladakh, including in Kargil, have yet to get any benefit from the Centre after being declared a separate UT. For recent shutdown and protests in Kargil, we were able to get support of all people, including religious and political organisations,” Ahsan Ahmad of Kargil told this reporter.

Even after one year since 5Augustlast year when the Union government had declared the Ladakh region as a separate Union Territory, authorities have yet to come up with laws to assure people here about their land, environment, cultural identity and jobs. Lack of laws have filled the minds of youth in Ladakh with suspicion. They are waiting to get safeguards from the Centre for their land, environment, cultural identity and jobs. “We are hearing stories from New Delhi that some big business houses will take over most of the land in Leh and Kargil to make tourist townships. Lack of laws and assurances from the Centre make us believe such stories,” said Regzen Salpher, a student from Leh. He said that even local BJP leaders were supporting them for getting their identity preserved. Jigmat Paljor, who is president of the Ladakh students’ welfare society, recently told media that they were disappointed by the Centre for not doing anything for youth, especially no drive for their recruitment in different government departments.

Paljor, like other youth leaders of Ladakh, want the Centre to come up with a new domicile law for the people of Ladakh so that there is no threat to their land. Similarly, they are equally concerned about the fragile environment and do not want big players to take their land and make huge tourism townships.

In both Kargil and Leh, there is no tourism this season after decades of rising tourism. Unemployment is at its peak with most hotels shut in Ladakh region. Growing cases of coronavirus, along with hovering war clouds with China, are adding to the uncertainties. “We feel frustrated. We have no business. Army build-up is hindering our agricultural activities and impacting our lives. Our life is no better even after being declared a UT. We are facing difficult times,” said Asgar Ali, a hotelier of Kargil who feels that the army standoff on LAC may go on till winter. In the past year, the Centre has issued a gazette notification for adaptation of 37 Central laws in the concurrent list for UT of J&K. Similarly, the Centre repealed dozens of state laws in J&K and did many other changes. A new domicile law was brought in force in the UT of Jammu and Kashmir, but not in Ladakh.

Sunday Guardian

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