Modi in Ladakh

Dr. Mahesh Kaul
Patience,purity of thought and action are the seeds of integrity that sprout with the nourishment of  centuries old wisdom.People of Ladakh uphold this tradition of Himalayan wisdom. Ladakh region of the state of Jammu & Kashmir is a place that has been in the forefront of  bearing both climatic and man- made  challenges from ancient times. And not only that it is the fulcrum of the geo-strategic equation in the Himalayas that has kept the people on the tenterhooks to make their life move on amid all odds of international politics eclipsing  this region. Be it the India -China war of 1962 or the regular intrusion of the Chinese forces and border skirmishes; people of Ladakh have kept their spirits high.
It is not without a reason that the people of Ladakh have  been able to develop sustainable  socio-cultural mechanism that is more close to nature than to artificial intervention of the man.The source of this aesthetically eco-friendly human-nature  dyad harmony is due to upholding of the tenets of  spiritual  truths that are derived from the realisation of divinity in all forms of   surroundings that sustain the eco-system.
This spiritual  heritage of continuous progression that catalysed with the  increase of  the sphere of influence of the  practical teachings of Buddhism  which was Sanskritised  through Tantras makes it more  a matter of nuanced research.As Tantras  that have Sanskrit origin not in terms of language only  but civilizational values as well need to be  internalised for scientific aspects that make them more harmonious than artificial intervention.
The model that Ladakh has developed through collective will of the people is comprehensive as it is based on infinite wisdom of  civilisation that  has shaped the Northern Frontier of India.
This wisdom of Ladakhi people  that has sustained them even in  terms of lack of resources and deficit of infrastructure   besides the discrimination that they have faced from successive regimes in terms of development should make other backward regions of India emulate our peaceful and eco -friendly brethren.
Labour of silent and dedicated  love   for the Motherland India amid all suffering that can’t  be reflected by mere words  but it can’t go un noticed either .When one is aesthetically harmonious  with the  bounties  and resources of nature then silence of nature echoes it more profoundly than the empty human noise of propaganda.It is in this context  that we should see the  words of appreciation  for the Ladakhi people that Prime Minister ,Narendra Modi showered a few days ago, when he was on a visit to Jammu and Kashmir and was speaking  at the closing ceremony  of the centenary birth celebrations of the Buddhist spiritual leader Kushak Bakula. Modi was not out place,when he said, “Despite hardships and  inaccessibility,Ladakhis have set up  an example in endeavouring  hardships and yet  continuing  their march of  progress and development. This example has to be followed by people of the valley and Jammu region.” It is a significant statement.When  the so called Jammu and Kashmir experts that have  always their  tongue in cheek while suggesting solutions to mitigate the ethno-religious conflict in the state by adopting  those models that have no significance to the present  crisis as these models are grounded in separatism and unhinging the state from the national mainstream; Narendra Modi’s remark should be seen as a weapon to show such so called experts their place by recognising the Ladakh model of harmony and development  as the key to success for the other two regions of the state.
He did not stop here,he recognised the entrepreneurial skills of the Ladakhi people ;especially the women.He said, “Your self -confidence  has taken Ladakh to great heights from the days  of backwardness.I am told today that the  entrepreneurship  of the women  of Ladakh  is an example for the rest of the country.”It is a very significant statement again, when seen from the national perspective. Experts have been suggesting entrepreneurship models from other states in Jammu and Kashmir for the skill development of  women and youth but no one has identified the resourcefulness of the people of the state  in developing their own models for growth and development amid nearly three decade long conflict.
Prime Minister  Narendra Modi identified another policy paradigm ,when he underlined the  tourist friendly atmosphere of Ladakh.This should been seen in the context of the killing of a tourist by stone pelters in Kashmir that has sent a negative signal in terms of tourism marketing of the state.It should be an eye opener for the tourism policy makers and marketers who paint the whole state as a danger zone for the tourists when Ladakh and Jammu regions are hospitable and tourist friendly; devoid of any threat to the tourists. He said, “With the population of  just a lakh and a quarter,the people of Ladakh host two lakh tourists each year.”
With such statements ,remarks and identification of the Ladakhi resourcefulness by the Prime Minister himself ;one hopes that the neglect and discrimination faced by the people of  Ladakh in terms of policy making and non-inclusion of the people in the national mainstream in the relative  sense will come to an end immediately and open the floodgates of  the development  and participation of the Ladakhi people in the national reconstruction in the frontline Himalayan state of Jammu and Kashmir.This can be sensed from  the following statement of Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. He gave a personal touch  to his Ladakh visit and said, “The region is not new to me.I have come here many times.When I worked for the party and visited Ladakh ,my friends would ask me  to bring some vegetables  for them from  Ladakh for the taste and purity of  the local produce.He further said, “Ladakh was an example of  great legacy of brotherhood  and peace and connecting people of the country with each other was  Kushak Bakula’s  special attribute also known  in far off Mangolia.”
This  visit was the part of  his main agenda that included  laying the foundation stone  for the Rs.6,809 crore Zojila tunnel spanning 14.2 km.Zojilla Pass is  situated at an altitude of 11,578 feet on the Srinagar-Kargil-Leh highway that is  remains mostly closed in winters due to heavy snowfall leading to cutting away of Ladakh from Kashmir.It is expected to be completed in 2026.Expressing his views on this project he said, “Zojilla is not an infrastructure project.It is going to be a technological marvel. “He instructed the Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari to  finish this tunnel in a record time.
Underlining the importance of this tunnel for the development of the region and the people,he said that it will  give Ladakh region round the year connectivity with the  rest of the country.
Zojilla tunnel should be seen as the great strategic step that not only caters to the needs of the people but as a strategic tool  as situates the region in a relatively safe geo-strategic  paradigm to counter the Himalayan adversary that loses no opportunity to transgress into this region.
Prime Minister went ahead and made a comprehensive remark about the utility of the region and said, “There is no better place for  solar energy development  in the country than the Ladakh region.Aromatic industry is developing fast in the world.There is a shift from  chemical  aroma  to natural aroma.This industry has a great  potential here.”
It should be seen as acknowledgement of the agro and farm besides the horticulture resources of Ladakh  region. There is a signal for the State Government to chip in and devise the policy measures to develop these industries to generate new avenues for employment and the apt use of local resources at the same time.
Health care has been the predominant concern  for the people of Ladakh as there is no standard health care system that caters to the people.Narendra Modi  was bang on target when he said, “People want  a medical college here .I have taken the demand seriously and will ask the state  and the Central Government to  explore this possibility and furnish a report on setting up a medical college.”
Last but not the least,culture and heritage has been the anchor of Ladakhi people that has given them their identity and spiritual support to emerge as victorious amid discrimination and conflict in the state.The Sanskrit Culture  and  Tantra Shastra that  reinforces the cultural and civilizational continuity of the region with the pan Indian Sanskrit civilizational moorings  needs to be preserved as it is the anchor that has made this Himalayan Frontier  region  as the  bulwark against the enemy designs till today.It is in this context that Prime Minister, Narendra Modi’s promise to  make a state of art  cultural centre and a digital museum for the region should be seen .It will act as the,conservation, preservation and heritage  interpretation  centre. Besides it will encourage the scholars to pursue  their research in the local culture, Buddhism and influence of Shaiva Tantra  from Kashmir that Sanskritised the Buddhism.Not only that it can lead to the new interpretation and findings of Gilgit manuscripts  that have always fascinated the serious scholars from all over the world.
(The author  is Chairman, Himalayan Heritage Foundation)


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