|Kashmir has been the most difficult issue confronting the Indian nation, with ramifications. About two thousand years or more ago, Kashmir was a great Buddhist centre and some of the famous Buddhist councils were held there. From then onwards it continued to be one of the principal centres of Sanskrit learning. Nearly a thousand years ago, Arab and Persian influences first affected Kashmir and later, under Muslim rule, Persian became the recognised official language. Thus Kashmir experienced successively and some times together Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim influences, creating a mixed but harmonised culture which is so evident even today in Kashmir.
Kashmir continues to be a tender spot for both India and Pakistan. After the emergence of Bangladesh as a free and sovereign state, the final settlement of the Kashmir question assumes vital importance for the establishment of a durable peace in the subcontinent. To understand and form a balanced view of this vexed and confusing problem, it is essential to have a historical perspective of the question--its genesis, development and the power politics in which it is hemmed.
The Kashmiris since independence have trained their guns on the minuscule Buddhist population with the ultimate objective of assimilating them in the Islamic faith. The State Government, dominated by Kashmiri Sunni Muslims, has been openly encouraging conversion of Ladakhi Buddhists to Islam. The underlying idea has been to disturb the balance of population in favour of Muslims. Conversion has assumed a menacing proportion. The Islamic fundamentalists and zealots have been encouraged by the State Government to carry out a relentless campaign of conversion. By using monetary power and fraudulent propaganda means they converted thousands of Buddhist girls to Islam. Underlying the conversion campaign is the design to Islamise Ladakh and to consolidate the valley based on separatist and secessionist politics.
The appointment of Kashmiri officers who allegedly established a nexus with 'Argoras'--a tiny community of Kashmiri Sunni Muslim elite traders who settled in Ladakh years ago--and misappropriated the plan funds and thus deprived Ladakh of whatever little development, is another ground of strong resentment. Most of the current problems of the state have arisen due to misuse of article 370 and disposition of the Kashmiri politicians to shape the power structure of the state to the advantage of the valley. The special needs of Ladakh have also been overlooked.
The Ladakhis, are highly resentful that the leverage of article 370 has been placed in the hands of the Kashmiri leadership. They have been complaining that, instead of being made "free sons of free India", they been thrown "at the mercy of Kashmiris".
A democratic polity, every person has to be treated as an equal citizen under common law without any discrimination. Only then can the disturbing communal divide be done away with. Every community needs to have a stake in its own as well as the nation’s wellbeing. What is required is breaking of the psychological barriers. All the political and economic power has been concentrated in the valley at the cost of Jammu and Ladakh regions. Both the regions have been discriminated. The combination of political and economic powers bred despotism and the common man is reduced to conditions of indescribable misery and slavery, though under the new and enchanting garb of democracy.
The Buddhists have longstanding grievances against the state administration, dominated by the valley Muslims. They claim that money meant for Ladakh is regularly transferred to the valley and that no major project has been undertaken in Ladakh in the past more than five decades. But what should surprise anyone most of all is the total indifference of the Central Government to uniform development of all regions.
Ladakhis have a strong feeling that the region has suffered much at the hands of the ruling national conference and that it is time to accord it a Union Territory status. Ladakh has been discriminated for the last 55 years and the people are suffering. Vision Ladakh mandates that the economic, financial and political powers be given to the people of Ladakh directly so that there is visible progress and development.