The Western media’s obsession with stoking fires in isolated regions of India has been a well-known story for which the pseudo-liberals –their core audience constituency –fall passionately. From Kashmir to the Northeast and Naxal badlands, the Western press will always find a nonexistent grievance to put India’s federal democratic structure to bad light.
The latest on target is the Himalayan region of Ladakh which is being presented as a region that gets no attention from New Delhi. Public development and social uplift is a continuous process and grievance is intrinsic to the democratic environment, but picking up Ladakh for unfounded criticism is not without reason: the West would like to tell the world that a region with miniscule population but vast and remote territory bordered by China and Pakistan –the two hostile neighbours of India –is unhappy.
The Economist, which campaigned aggressively across 2013 asking Indians not to vote for Narendra Modi as Prime Minister, now has a story in Ladakh which appears to have been written with sheer motivated imagination and in utter disregard of the facts. At the heart of the story is Ladakh’s strategic surroundings –China and Ladakh –and not the development and aspirational audient of Ladakh.
The Economist Lies
Claiming itself as the world’s trusted publication, the Economist had packaged together a bundle of lies that are open for comment, not only by the Ladakhi people but also by the media and the critics. Here is a step-by-step expose of the lies:
- The clampdown in August 2019?
The Economist says that the Center ordered a clamp down in Ladakh at the time of its formation of Union Territory in August 2019 to prevent protests. The magazine goes on to say that internet was also snapped along with Kashmir. This is a fact that restrictions, including suspension of internet, were imposed in Kashmir to prevent terrorists and secessionists from exploiting the situation, but the whole world saw with naked eye the celebrations in Ladakh on declaration of Union Territory. This is a white lie and motivated claim that Ladakh suffered any sort of clampdown.
- Bureaucrats governing from New Delhi?
The Economist says that bureaucrats running Ladakh from New Delhi have no sense of the place! The magazine further argues that only the national elections determine who governs Ladakh locally? The Union Territory directly integrated with New Delhi, and not under Kashmir, has been a well-known Ladakhi demand right since 1947. In India, Union Territories have a uniform model since the re-organisation of states in 1956. How is it that the Economist knows more about the Ladakhi sentiments than the Ladakh itself? New Delhi is the seat of the political executive, while a set of some of the finest bureaucrats are right there on the ground in Ladakh to serve the Ladakhi people. The bureaucracy and the administrative system is essentially Ladakhi as there are just some twenty-odd senior officers led by the Lieutenant Governor and the Advisor who oversee the governance –this is how exactly the governance operates everywhere in the country. How could the Economist overlook this?
- Ladakhis regret UT demand?
The Economist claims that the Ladakhis now regret their demand for the Union Territory as most of them now think they overestimated the benefits and underestimated the risks. By saying so, the Economist is insulting the very political wisdom, social consciousness and intelligence of the Ladakhi people. Is the Economist trying to say that the Ladakhi people, including the political veterans and intellectuals, had absolutely no idea all across seven decades of their struggle as what they were asking for? The Union Territory model, as said above, has an almost uniform model across the country, and the Ladakhi people were always aware of what does this mean. This is a fact that democracy provides for the people to aspire for more and similarly the Ladakhi people are also asking for more empowerment. Several proposals are under discussion with the government.
- Are ladakhis being overrun by outsiders?
Citing the presence of labour from different parts of country engaged in infrastructure development and construction works, the Economist says that Ladakhis fear being overrun by the outsiders. Really? Ladakh is 59,000 square kilometer of vast area with a tiny and scattered population. It needs extraordinary efforts, time, energy and resources, including the human resources, to create facilities for the people. This ‘outside labour’, which the economist alleges may overrun people, is actually in aide and assistance of the people of Ladakh to make their lives better. These people come from warm regions of India to work in sub zero temperatures, away from their homes and families, and eventually return without staking any claim on the local land or jobs. Why is this fear being created on artificial arguments? Are there attempts to cause social unrest in an acclaimed peaceful region?
- No provincial elections, no democracy?
Now since Ladakh is a Union Territory, there will no elections and hence democracy stands strangulated –this is what the Economic seems to infer in the end! The Union Territory, as has been said above, was a long-awaited model of administration the Ledakhi people struggled for over the decades. There are indeed demands for further empowerment but to say that Ladakh will not have elections and there is no democracy is a clear piece of propaganda to ignite passions and mislead the world. Ladakh has strong democratic institutions where people come to legitimate powers by way of elections. The Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council, each for Leh and Kargil districts, is a powerful elected institution with a respectable status and well-defined role in the administrative system. The Panchayati Raj Institutions are constitutionally empowered bodies elected through adult franchises and play a vital role in the development of the region. The urban areas have municipal bodies, elected regularly. In addition to these three elected institutions, Ladakh has a seat in the Lok Sabha, the Lower House in the Indian Parliament. No small set of population, as small as 300,000, can get a better set of elected institutions anywhere in the world. With all these institutions in place, the government of India still engaged with the Ladakhi stakeholders on their further demands. But the Economist would like to brush all these facts under the carpet in weaving a mat of lies.
Post Script: The Economist needs to correct its map of India
- December 2, 2023
- January 2, 2023