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Strategies For Building
A Culture Of Peace In Ladakh

By Stanzin Dawa

19 September, 2006

"The highest education is that which does not merely give us information but makes our life in harmony with all existence." - Rabindranath Tagore

We are living in a Ladakh marked by growing conflict, both in terms of its frequency and intensity. Filled with a constant overflowing tension within ourselves, our families, our communities, our villages, our religion, our politics, our workplaces, our roads and our Ladakh, we have seen that any interaction at any moment can erupt into violence. I think the time has come to ask ourselves what is at the roots of this conflict. From where are all of these feelings of frustration, insecurity, anger, hatred, fear, competition, and purposelessness coming from, and why are they continuously getting channeled into our way of life.

Ladakh which was based on peaceful coexistence have gradually broken down. "…First, a gradual fragmentation of our society because of ballot box politics. So now we are no longer "Ladakhis". We are Buddhist or Muslim, Shamma or Stodpa, Shia or Sunni, Kagyudpa or Gelugpa, even Congress-pa or N.C.-pa! …" said Professor Siddiq Wahid in an interview given to The dehumanized paradigm of modern development has broken the traditional culture of peace in Ladakh. Helena Norberg-Hodge noted scholar makes the case that increasing levels of violence between and within Ladakh's Buddhist and Muslim communities can be attributed to "the intensely centralizing force of the present global development model." This paradigms feed off of each other to generate ideologies that manipulate us, on one hand, to struggle against each other for 'limited' power and resources and, on the other hand, to rigidly stake in certain notions of 'identity', virtually that leads to violence.

The UNESCO International Commission on Education for the 21st Century (1996) has highlighted the notion of 'learning to live together' as one of the main goals for the new millennium. Living together while accepting and appreciating the differences was the most significant identity of Ladakhi culture. In the existing hostile system of global exploitation, culture and approaches like Ladakh are dying slowly and silently. With the advancement of modern development in Ladakh we are losing sight of who we really are, what connects us to each other, and what the deeper struggle of life and existence in Ladakh. 'learning to live together' involves creating new space and process to learn techniques to manage, negotiate, resolve, and prevent the different conflicts that emerge in our lives, such as: peer mediation, anger management, active listening, stress reduction, meditation, values clarification, self-esteem, and team building.

To face this, we must learn to see conflict from another angle... as a positive opportunity for building greater harmony in our lives and creating new paths of development. Rather than hiding from conflict, we must embrace it by facing fear and uncertainty, and becoming more open to and appreciative of the diversity that exist across the Ladakh. We have the Vision document for the 20 years of Ladakh development, to shape the destiny of Ladakh as per "Our Choice." We can learn from the history that without Peace the development cannot be sustained and without Development Peace cannot be existed.We learn from our experiences, but what we want to learn depends upon our motive. We can learn the best from the worst situation, provided we have the right motive behind it. Learning of the past with a noble motive can help us to deal with the present and future situations in an effective way.

The last summer violence between Muslims and Buddhist, the constant political tussle, conflict within and between the principal religious institutions, regions, sects and systems in Ladakh forced me to think little deeper about the future of Ladakh more precisely, culture of peace between and within Leh and Kargil, Buddhist and Muslims, Congress and LUTF, LBA and LMA, NGOs and bureaucracy, shanma and stodpa in Ladakh. The cause of conflicts can be so many, but the causes of peace are limited and sometime if we don't understand the causes of peace can be the causes for conflicts.

Have we learnt some lesson from the past and present conflict? Can we sense the potential of future conflict? Do we have a plan of action for resisting future conflicts? Do we have some strategies to transform conflicts? I am sure many of us are concerned about the future relationship between and within Muslims and Buddhists or Leh and Kargil in Ladakh. How we can bring them closer to build a united and strong Ladakh? How we can stop the vertical division of Ladakh in the name of religion, politics, sects, region and development? The fears and worries of many concerned people and my own concern for the future of Ladakh compel me to propose a strategy for building a culture of peace in Ladakh. I would like to make it very clear in the very beginning that neither, I am an expert on development nor a professional strategist. But out of my love for Ladakh with great concern as an ordinary Ladakhi I am proposing this model which I am sure carries lots of flaws. I must request other enlightened and experts to bless their wisdom and skills in order to make this a SMART strategy in the larger interest of Ladakh.

33 Percent Reservation for Women in the Council

Almost none of the major conflicts occurred between and within Muslims and Buddhists were initiated by women, but they have equally affected if not more. The surface of the Ladakh is covered with a thin gray layer of democratic fabric. Democracy in Ladakh is a spectator sport, it hardly exists for women in Ladakh; women are still not admitted as full and equal members in the local government democratic set up. Looking at the facts, women make up approximately half of the population of Ladakh. Only 2 women councillors are there in Leh Council and 3 women in the Kargil Council, each council body are comprised of 30 members. Appropriate Democratic structures can offer an effective means for the peaceful handling of deep-rooted conflict through inclusive, just and accountable frameworks. Democracy provides the foundation for building an effective and lasting settlement to internal conflicts. Therefore building appropriate democratic structures in Ladakh is crucial in building a culture of peace and peaceful settlement. "If we take the unfortunate step of marginalizing women, the impact will be a 'half-society' that is less educated, less compassionate and less intelligent." said, Professor Siddiq Wahid ( interview dated 15th September 2006)

The constitutional protection of one third representation to women in the Panchayati Raj institutions under the 73rd and 74th amendment to the Indian Constitution was a land mark steps taken by the Indian parliament to make the representative democracy a participatory one. The demand for 33 percent reservation was based on the research conducted in the United States in the 1970s, on women participation in business, which showed that 30 percent representation by minorities could significantly influence the majority verdict. Drude Dehlerup of the University of Stockholm extended these findings to women reservation in politics. She observed that while quotas are necessary to jump start the process of equality, the demand for quotas is a manifestation of growing impatience with unequal political and social citizenship. As the Autonomous Council in Ladakh has become a Male Oligarchy. Considering the marginalization of women in the local democratic set up I propose 33 percent reservation of seats for women in the local Autonomous Hill Development Council of Leh and Kargil. Women's visions, intelligence, energy and experience are indispensable to the creation of a more just, prosperous and peaceful Ladakh.

Peace education.

Mark Twain "There is nothing training cannot do. Nothing is above its reach. It can turn bad morals to good; it can destroy bad principles and recreate good ones; it can lift men to angel ship." School is a primary institution for shaping the attitude and personality of the children. Education being a state subject, the destiny of education in Ladakh was decided by the people who were alien to Ladakhi culture and problems. In the name of education they have introduced inappropriate and irrelevant syllabi in our schools. The alien education system is responsible to a great extent in breaking the culture of peace between and within Buddhists and Muslims. It weakened the inter community bond and understanding. This system has developed communal sentiments and a sense of insecurity among Ladakhi. Besides widening the gap between and within the communities the system has robbed the self esteem of Ladakhi.

Realizing the need of an education reform in Ladakh, the government, NGOs and community have jointly started ONH (Operation New Hope) initiated by SECMOL in order to make the over all system of education more appropriate and relevant in the Ladakhi context. The ONH has made a significant impact on the school education but it is still limited in its scope and its operations due to various reasons. It has become a model for other states to collectively work on the primary education involving government, NGOs and community. Seeing the potential of the conflicts and power of the peace education we must introduce peace education in the school curriculum. Suitable peace curriculum can be developed on the basis of peaceful historical relationship between and within the communities as well as to develop a global understanding of peace, so that Ladakhis can think globally and act locally. Leaders, prominent citizens and scholars should talk about peace, non violence and compassion to the children. Considering the increasing threats of global violence the US congress has passed a legislation to introduce non violence education in the school. We can also learn from their experiences by introducing culture of peace education in the school curriculum. "It is easier to lead men to combat, stirring up their passion, than to restrain them and direct them toward the patient labors of peace" André Gide. Only a strong society can educate its people on peace.

Common Language

" Learn a new language and get a new soul." Czech Proverb, but we should not lose our own soul while running after the other soul. It is good that we have a common soul I mean common language, as communication is the life line for peace and development. Language is not merely comprised of letters, grammars and phonetics it has its own history, music, colours and beauty. Common language facilitates better understanding that helps in strengthening the relationship. I came to know from my Balti friend M. Hasnan from Baltistan, a young Balti scholar that people in Baltistan are desperate to learn and preserve their language, as they have realized the significance of their language in promoting social solidarity and in maintaining their own identity and culture. You can access to his article on Balti language at this URL. ( We must emphasize on promoting the local language. Our language gradually developed over the centuries. The Government of India observes Hindi Week to promote the Hindi language as nantional language. In the similar fashion the local government can also fix up a week in their official calendar to promote the Ladakhi language, as a regional official language. The scholars in the local Language should be provided grants for doing research. The local government should take an initiative to introduce an award in the field of Ladakhi literature. It will boost the moral of the scholars to consistently work for the promotion and development of the local language.

Common Minimum Development Programme of Ladakh (Leh and Kargil)

Leh and Kargil have almost similar developmental constraints; in order to deal with such constraints both the Autonomous Hill development Council of Leh and Kargil can develop CPDP (Common Minimum Development Programme). This would be a creative and innovative programme for both the local governments to understand each other by sharing and learning from each other. It will help them to develop a common goal and a vision for the whole Ladakh. Besides developmental work the councilors can learn about good governance from each other. There should be a minimum of two meetings at councilor's level to discuss common plan while bridging the gap between the two regions. We must pursue peaceful ends through peaceful means. The CMDP will help the local government to preserve, protect and promote social harmony and to enforce the law without fear or favour and to deal with all obscurantist and fundamentalist elements who seek to disturb social amity and peace. It will help in ensuring sustain economic growth that generates employment and sources of livelihood. It can address the women issue in a more effective way by empowering women politically, educationally and economically. Leh and Kargil council should give a joint proposal to the state and centre government to establish a Centre for Research and Development of Ladakh (CeRDoL).This centre can help local governments and NGOs in policy formulation, monitoring, evaluation and capacity building besides doing research on issues related to Ladakh.

Youth Participation

Youth stands for energy, enthusiasm, adventures, and spirit of taking risk. It's a stage in which the individual is most active and dynamic physically, mentally, sexually and socially. Youth are the most powerful force; in fact they are the nature's finest force. We need youth, their strength, enthusiasm and idealism, to help us make right what is wrong. Time and again this energy has been poorly utilized or wrongly utilized for various purposes. The history of world is full of youth's courage, convictions, commitment, determination, contribution and accomplishment. Youth are vulnerable because they are not adequately equipped with the right information, not equipped with the right skills and immense peer, family and societal pressure. One of the best ways to see the future of the society is to see what the youth are doing in the presence. Youth from both Leh and Kargil should come together at a common platform to debate, discuss and argue on different developmental issues. In this way they can develop and promote inter religion and region friendship. Educated unemployment is becoming a major problem in Ladakh, the government should have a clear policy on youth development. The goverment of India cannot afford to see the sufferings of Ladakhi youth. It can learn from the past that unemplyment in the border areas is loop hole in the goverment policy on border secirity. Ladakhis are by nature peace loving and remained loyal to India in all the conditions. Unemployment could be a threat for weakening the border and internal peace and security. Government of India, J&K, Autonomous Council, local NGOs, local entrepreneurs and youth should come up with innovative ideas to generate employment opportunities in Ladakh. Youth should come up with creative ideas to strengthen the relations between and within the Buddhists and Muslims or Leh and Kargil. Ultimately they are going to be the shaper of the destiny of Ladakh's future, architect of peace and security.

Youth wants and deserves a voice in our communities. Officials (both government and civil societies) make decisions that affect our youth on a daily basis in their participation and development. Over the last one decade we have seen young people shaping or influencing local policies and programs in limited way. Nothing is more important to the health of our democracy than the active engagement of young people in representative government at the local level. The split of LUTF was a blessing in disguise for the young people in Leh as it has created few seats for youth in the local Council body. Youth participation and involvement in local government promotes healthy development of young people and it can also promote culture of peace. They will be engaged in constructive work under the guidance of senior leaders. People and government should encourage youth initiative and intervention in social, political and economic development.

Acceptance for differences

Diversity is the law of the nature, and acceptance to the diversity assures peace in the world. Peace comes from being able to contribute the best that we have, and all that we are, toward creating a Ladakh that supports everyone irrespective of differences. But it is also securing the space for others to contribute the best that they have and all that they are. Acceptance of others, their belief, their religion, their political ideology, their looks, their culture, and their behaviors brings an inner peace and tranquility instead of anger and resentment. Despite many cultural and linguistic similarities between and within Ladakhi Buddhist and Muslim, Leh and Kargil still it carries many differences, which needs to be nurtured and respected. We all are human first before we are Buddhist or Muslims, Leh pa or Kargil pa, Congress pa or LUTF pa, Shanma pa or Stodpa pa; we must behave as a human. Religion should help us in making people more peace loving and compassionate. Politics should help us to serve the people in an effective and efficient way to build an equitable and democratic Ladakh for all.

Music and Arts

"Thank God I have music to vent my emotions. I'd be in a prison if I didn't." Paula Cole. Music is the language of the heart and the language of the heart transcends the barriers of religion, region, sex, caste and colour. Music is a beautiful healing process it begins with the self, and gradually expands to your family, your neighbours, your society, your village, your country the whole world. Preservation and promotion of traditional music and arts can play a significant role in enhancing the culture of peace. The traditional songs and dramas carry meaningful stories about people, culture, harvest, marriage, nature, animals etc. Timely cultural exchange of musicians and artists must be organized between and within Buddhists and Muslims or Leh and Kargil. We can organize Leh-Kargil friendship cultural festivals, in which artists from both the region can perform on the same platform while exchanging their arts and culture. The department for cultural academy can play a significant role in the promotion and preservation of Ladakhi music, arts and folks. Music and arts must be essential components of the school curriculum. The local government should give special emphasis on the promotion local folks and arts. We cannot blame the young generation if we are not providing a better alternative in the form of local music. Traditional musicians and artists should be employed as a teacher in the school. The department of Cultural Academy can be a center for research and promotion of Ladakhi music, folks and arts.

Exchange Programme

I believe that people in the long run are going to be more alert and informed to promote communal harmony and peace. With that believe lying deep in my heart I am working enthusistically with a dancing smile on my face. I have met with people from Pakistan on a People to People contact programme last year 2005 at Jalandhar. I was amazed to see the aspirations and enthusiasm of people of both the countries (India and Pakistan) for peace and harmony. The local government, NGOs and religious intuitions should promote people to people contact programme in Ladakh between and within Leh and Kargil or Buddhists and Muslims. Spiritual leaders, educationist, students and professionals can visit each other's region. They can learn from each other system of governance, culture, people, institutions, families, arts and folk. Leh and Kargil Autonomous Hill Development Council can start an internship programme under which two graduate students from the other region can be sponsored for one year to work as an intern with the council.

"Coming together is the beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success."
Henry Ford

The author can be reached at [email protected]









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