In a hard-hitting speech in Parliament, Ladakh’s 33-year-old Member of Parliament (MP), Tsering Namgyal, the son of a carpenter, made a forceful point about Kashmir’s harsh realities.
In an apparent reference to the Abdullahs and Muftis, Namgyal said, “Members of two families are still intoxicated and think that Kashmir is their father's property. I want to ask why is it that in the past when funds were collected for the development of entire J&K, the entire amount for Ladakh was transferred to Kashmir. Is this your equality? The Congress recognised Kashmiri and Dogri as scheduled languages, but what about language of the Ladakhi people?"
Namgyal’s fierce speech drew applause from the prime minister as well as from people across the country. In many ways he wasn’t much off the mark in his observations. A look at key economic and social parameters of the Ladakh region shows that it has been rendered step-motherly treatment by Kashmir’s politicians over the years.
Consider this: Despite tourism being its mainstay, the Leh Development Authority got just Rs 1.1 crore from the state government for promoting tourism in the state’s budget. The Kargil development authority got the same amount. But the Royal Springs Golf Course on the boulevard road in Srinagar was allocated twice that amount in the budget. The measly amount was just a drop in the ocean of Jammu and Kashmir’s Rs 324 crore tourism budget according to latest statistics available from the erstwhile state’s government. In 1979-80, the district of Leh commanded almost 12 per cent of the state’s budgetary outlay. Two and a half decades later, Leh district accounted for just three per cent of the plan outlay.
This anomaly is also visible in the cultural sphere. Over a decade from 2001 to 2011, the number of Ladakhi language speakers have declined by 86 per cent, whereas the number of Kashmiri speakers have risen by 23 per cent. During this period the Buddhist male population in Ladakh has fallen five per cent. Meanwhile the Muslim population has grown by 20 per cent. In 1981, Buddhists comprised 81 per cent of the population in Leh – one of the two districts in addition to Kargil that make up the Ladakh region. By 2011, they were down to 66 percent of the population. In 1981, Hindus made up just three per cent of the population. In 2011, Hindus constituted 17 per cent of the population.
The following charts show the complete alienation of Leh district under Kashmir which also indicates why there is a sense of jubilation among Ladakhis after it was declared a Union Territory by the Modi government.