Responding to Modi’s television address to the nation on the scrapping of Articles 370 and 35A and Jammu and Kashmir’s reorganization, Namgyal said: “From the people of Ladakh, I want to thank the PM because in his address he has understood the feelings of the people and has given the region respect. He has given an address on the political aspirations, developmental spirit and even recognized the contribution of the people from the region of Ladakh."
The first-time MP has no airs, arriving for the interview in an auto-rickshaw. Namgyal has worked his way up in politics, having served in the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council, Leh as a councillor and then as its chairperson. He has also held the position of state media secretary of the BJP and is a published poet.
Namgyal believes that Ladakh has suffered for the last seven decades due to neglect and that its new status as a Union territory will not only boost development, but also create jobs. In his Lok Sabha speech, he targeted the Congress saying: “Under Kashmir, our development, our political aspiration, our identity, our language, if all of this got lost, it is because of Article 370—and the Congress party is responsible for that."
In an interview, Namgyal spoke about the developments over the last week and their significance for Ladakh. Edited excerpts:
What are your thoughts on the move to revoke Article 370?
The decision of the Union government to revoke Article 370 is a historic step under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to rectify the blunder that was created by the Congress leaders. Now the future of Kashmir, Ladakh and the nation is very bright.
In your speech in Lok Sabha, you were confident that Ladakh will prosper economically because of this move. What makes you so sure?
The people of Ladakh have more than enough experience of Kashmir dominance. For 70 years, if you check the history of Ladakh, we have a lot to count for and, after taking that into account, we can see a bright future for Ladakh.
Article 370 is an emotive issue and people from different regions react differently, how will it resonate with the people?
I think the people who are talking in favour of Article 370 and against the revocation, first those people must count the merits of Article 370. In Lok Sabha, as a small worker of the BJP, I can count the demerits of Article 370. But unlike this, the Congress cannot count a single merit, then why are they making a hue and cry about it? They are misleading the common masses for the sake of their seat. That should not be happening.
Do you think that such an announcement can cause a communal split in Ladakh?
Ladakh (a Buddhist majority region with a substantial Muslim minority) already has communal harmony. The scrapping of Article 370 will not matter much in this case. The people of Ladakh want to see development. They want a bright future for our students and the younger generation. The people of Ladakh want a comfortable life. We know how to live in those climatic conditions where there is no mobile network, or access to basic healthcare. There is no medical college, engineering college or a management institution anywhere in Ladakh. There are no options for higher education. In today’s modern times, how can you have a region without educational facilities, healthcare facilities, communication, or basic television network?
We know, and if this is the result of Article 370, then we obviously don’t want Article 370, but we can try something else. That is where the demand for a Union territory comes from, so that Ladakh can also be with the central government and be under the administration of the central government directly (the Union territory will not have a legislative assembly).
One main reason for communal harmony is that we have blood relations among the Buddhist and Muslim people. No one can disturb this harmony.
Ladakh region had representatives in the Jammu and Kashmir legislative assembly, but due to the move, there will be no legislators from the entire region. How do you look at the development?
We have the Ladakh Autonomous Development Council. Ladakh is the first Union territory to have this and the council has the power to manage all of this land, which even the Union territory of Delhi does not have. Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal does not have the land power under him, but our council has. Do you see the strength in that? This will definitely help in development as the power of plan formulation is vested with the council. The power for expenditure, funding, management of land is vested with the council.
The central government will give us the necessary funds, which a Union territory will get. They are giving money and we will spend as per our need. There is no need to worry.
Pakistan has downgraded diplomatic ties with India. How do you look at the worsening ties between the two countries?
Pakistan is not comfortable with the move, but whatever India has decided, it is our internal matter. We don’t care what Pakistan decides at their end, because it is their matter and, in this case, this is our family matter. If Pakistan is worried about this decision there is only one conclusion… The infiltrators who are entering India from Pakistan, now their way is blocked. That is why Pakistan is crying.
Most of the democratically-elected leaders in Jammu and Kashmir, including two former chief ministers, are under house arrest. Senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad was also stopped at the Srinagar airport. How do you view such developments?
This step is in the interest of the nation, and these are precautionary measures which must be taken.
Jammu and Kashmir is a under immense security cover. How do you think the people of the state will react to the move, especially people in the Kashmir valley?
What do you want? Do you want Section 144 to be imposed after lives are lost, or such precautionary measures to be taken which ensure that there is no violence? We have two options, either we impose after more than 41,000 people have lost their lives (in the last three decades), or provide additional security for protection. This is the best step in the interest of the nation.