December 20, 2013
People on the Ladakh sector of the border with China are compelled to ponder over a heart ripping prospect of a future in China -- a country they viscerally hate for steadily usurping their land. Their swelling disillusionment and popular frustration with India is fraught with grave geo-strategic and national security implications for the country. New Delhi's morbid indifference is indeed frightening, says R N Ravi.
The guardians of the nation, ensconced in rarefied shells on the Lutyens knoll, though are ever quick to dismiss media reports of Chinese intrusions into the Indian territory as 'acne' and 'pimple', but Indians living at the border feel differently. They are appalled and intrigued at Delhi’s denial of the daylight truth about steady loss of their livelihood -- the precious pastures crucial for sustenance of their livestock to the Chinese.
A recent week in the villages along the border in the Ladakh sector left the writer with a queasy feeling that the people who are the vanguard of our defence against China, are feeling forsaken and suffering a wrenching emotional re-orientation of their sense of belonging. Persistent betrayal by New Delhi has shaken their innate sense of Indian-ness. They are compelled to ponder over a heart ripping prospect of a future in China -- a country they viscerally hate for steadily usurping their land, smashing and grabbing Tibet -- the country they share their cultural and spiritual values with and waging a treacherous war on India. Their swelling disillusionment and popular frustration with India is fraught with grave geo-strategic and national security implications for the country. New Delhi's morbid indifference is indeed frightening.
Contrary to popular perception, diligently engendered by wilful distortions of the country's frontier's geography by the rulers and their misleading utterances that the Ladakh's region along India-China border is a sprawling stretch of desolate rocks and dead mountains where 'not a blade of grass grows', it is the home and habitat of a people who are culturally rich, politically sensitive and emotionally proud Indians. Unfortunately the country is sorely testing their patriotism.
From Shyok, the northernmost border village in the sector where China has been the most aggressive -- the latest reported aggression was in April this year in which they grabbed further some 30 kms of the Indian territory, to Demchok, the easternmost border village, an stretch of some 400 kms, the people feel utterly abandoned by the governments -- state as well as the central. Primary healthcare, education, roads and communication seem surrealistic dreams to the people. Health centres of sorts are as far as over 150 kms from the villages with no roads. From Demchok the nearest health centre is at Nyoma, the sub-divisional headquarter, over 175 kms away with no connectivity. A weekly bus trundles between Leh, the district headquarters and some lucky villages linked by mud and gravel roads during non-winter months. Thanks to solar electricity some of the villages get about 2 to 3 hours of light in the evening contingent on sunshine during the day. A primary school is a far cry for most.
Widespread sense of deprivations at the absence of the most basic necessities of life gets painfully accentuated at the stark contrast with the amenities visible a stone's throw across the border in Tibet where they seem to have everything -- hospitals, schools, network of excellent roads, 24x7 electricity and mobile phones with robust connectivity. In fact, lost in this wilderness for a week my only link with home and the world was the China mobile to which my cell phone got automatically hooked for the most part of the travel. A sneaking sense of admiration for China is palpable!