Ladakh - ‘unheard sufferer of India-Pakistan partition’

February 25th, 2008 - 12:39 pm ICT by admin  

By Sarwar Kashani
New Delhi, Feb 25 (IANS) Ladakh has suffered considerably due to the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947 and the plight of people there is overlooked in the larger spectrum of the Kashmir conflict, says a former Harvard professor. Also known as ‘Little Tibet’, as it is strongly influenced by Tibetan culture, Ladakh remains divided between India, Pakistan and China and is “neglected and voices from there are unheard”, says Sidiq Wahid, a former professor of Harvard University’s Department of Inner Asian and Altaic Studies.

“The partition has left a deep psychological impact on the people of the Ladakh region,” Wahid said while delivering a lecture on “The Great Partition - Effects on Ladakh” organised by the Heinrich Boll Foundation, Max Mueller Bhavan, India Habitat Centre (IHC) and Zubaan here.

“Ladakh has more divided families than Kashmir Valley,” Wahid, vice chancellor of the Islamic University of Science and Technology in south Kashmir, said at IHC.

The 1947 partition of India had lasting consequences - politically, economically and socially. While Punjab and Bengal regions experienced a great deal of trauma due to the division of territories and people, Ladakh suffered no less.

“Ladakh in fact has seen many partitions in its history since 9th Century AD, when it broke up from the Tibetan empire,” Wahid said while recollecting the history of the hilly region inhabited by people of Indo-Aryan and Tibetan descents.

In 1834, the Dogra rulers of Jammu invaded and annexed Ladakh before Kashmir Valley was part of their empire. In 1948, Pakistani tribals raided Kashmir and captured Gilgit Baltistan (also called Northern Areas), resulting in the division of hundreds of families living near the Line of Control.

The region, nestled between the Kunlun mountain range in the north and the main Great Himalayas to the south, is one of the most sparsely populated regions of Jammu and Kashmir.

Kargil, part of the Ladakh region, has suffered the most in the India-Pakistan wars of 1947, 1965, 1971 and was the focal point of the 1999 border conflict. People also suffered due to heavy cross border shelling prior to the 2004 ceasefire between the two countries.

“The region is a victim of homogenisation and hegemony,” the academic said, explaining why voices from the Ladakh and Gilgit Baltistan regions are never heard.

“The region, having a population of around 250,000 people, has no representation. Their voices get lost somewhere in the larger dynamics of Kashmir issue,” said Wahid, who is the author of “Ladakh: Between Earth and Sky”.

The academic, also a political activist, said the condition of people in Pakistan-governed Gilgit Baltistan was even worse.

“The government has been silencing them with some small economic packages but no democratic rights at all,” Wahid told IANS on the sidelines of the lecture.

“I have been telling the people at the helm that it is dangerous to overlook the people from this region. Simple logic. India and Pakistan have the Great Himalayas to guard them against their hostile neighbours and the people living down these Himalayas need to feel secure,” he said.

“Ensuring resumption of trade of through traditional road links (Silk Route) may lead to a solution that is agreeable to all,” he suggested.

The lecture, part of a yearlong observance of 60 years of partition, is aimed at providing a fresh perspective on the phenomenon and its effect on different regions and communities.

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