India: Protests in Pune call for end to the bureaucratic takeover of Ladakh region

Protest in Pune

Over the last month in Ladakh, the eastern part of the Jammu and Kashmir state, massive protests involving hundreds of thousands of people have taken place across the region. They are protesting against the brute regime of the Union Government over the territory. Earlier in 2019, the BJP in a high-handed move, abrogated Article 370 and converted Ladakh into the Union Territory, depriving it of statehood without any consultation with the people or its elected representatives. The BJP government with its one-state policy, not only continue to undermine nationality rights but also disregards the federal aspect of the constitution that so far helped hold together various states under one roof.

The conversion to Union Territory has seen Ladakh’s democratic framework replaced by a bureaucratic one. In the article, “The Roots of discontent in Ladakh” on the website, The Wire, reported that instead of two deputy commissioners for two districts of Leh and Kargil, now UT is governed by a Lt Governor, seven advisors, a principal secretary, three commissioner secretaries, four secretaries, one IG Ladakh Police, DIGs, two SSPs, five SPs and an abundance of officers from the state services, resulting in a cobweb of bureaucracy. Such rule by the bureaucracy meant the further undermining of the authority of elected bodies like the Autonomous Hill Development Councils in each district.

The draft of a new industrial policy has further alarmed the residents of the region. Ladakh, which primarily comprises tribes, has hill councils that decide on land allotments. The proposed industrial policy aims to vest this power in the bureaucracy. The decisions to earmark community land as state land and reassign the power of land documentation to the collector have further added to suspicion. The policy of contractualization of appointments in public services and the arbitary rules for it have further estranged the masses. They demand full statehood for Ladakh, inclusion in the Sixth Schedule (which provides protection to its land, culture and jobs), the establishment of public service commissions, and two MPs for the region.

The current BJP government acts nakedly as an agent of section of the capitalist class, and it is very evident that it would use bureaucracy to allow corporate capital to loot the resources of the region. For the land that is inhabited by various tribes and has a fragile ecology, such policies would be destructive. It is this fear and lack of indigenous voices that have triggered such massive struggles across the region. It is noteworthy that another such state, Manipur in the north-east, has been simmering with similar, or rather, much worse, discontent for around a year now. The New Socialist Alternative stands in full solidarity with the masses of Ladakh. Yesterday, Youths for Alternative, a political campaign undertaken by us to mobilize youths looking for alternatives, organized a solidarity campaign. Youths held posters upholding the demands of the masses of Ladakh.



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March 2024