India Must Give Space To Gilgit-Baltistan People In J&K Assembly: Sering
India must grant the people of Gilgit Baltistan all political rights including representation in Indian Parliament and Jammu and Kashmir legislative bodies, to counter the illegal claim made by Pakistan, Institute for Gilgit-Baltistan Studies Founder Senge Sering said.
“Pakistan continues to link Gilgit-Baltistan with Jammu and Kashmir and calls it a disputed territory. On the other hand, India claims Gilgit-Baltistan as an integral part of India and the locals as its citizens,” Sering said.
“So the next logical step for India is to grant the people of Gilgit Baltistan all political rights that the rest of Indians enjoy including representation in the parliament and Jammu & Kashmir legislative bodies,” he told Organiser, a RSS mouthpiece.
By doing this, India can demolish the fake religious issue attached to Kashmir issue. In reality, Jammu and Kashmir is religiously and racially very diverse and Kashmiris have no monopoly on it, Sering said.
Sering was born in the village Yulskil in district Shigar, Gilgit-Baltistan. Shigar’s Union Council is called Gulabpur, named after the Dogra Maharaja, Gulab Singh. Shigar is home to K-2, the second tallest peak in the world and the longest glaciers outside the north and south poles on the globe. Shigar borders Xinjiang province of China in the north.
Unfortunately, the previous Indian governments ignored Gilgit-Baltistan to please Kashmiri leaders, which benefitted Pakistan by labelling the dispute as a religious issue, he said.
The Narendra Modi government should establish a direct relationship with Gilgit-Baltistan leaders and offer them a space in the Indian political stream, Sering said.
The government can also grant educational scholarships and provide health services, which are major demands of the Gilgit-Baltistan region, he said.
It should continue to expose China to stop them from turning Gilgit-Baltistan into another Tibet and or Xinjiang, Sering said. India should reopen Kargil Road to boost local commerce, he added.
The abrogation of special status granted to Jammu and Kashmir has changed the perception and rationality of Gilgit-Baltistan people. More and more people are realising that Ladakh is better off with India than Pakistan, Sering said.
More and more people in Gilgit-Baltistan are also realising that Pakistan has no legal rights to grant them citizenship. They are understanding that Pakistan has no legal sanctity over them and have to withdraw, he said.
Islamabad treat Gilgit-Baltistan like a colony with no voting rights and a toothless assembly. Pakistani rulers treat Gilgit-Baltistan people like subjects of a fief from the 17th century, Sering said.
Their primary focus is to change local ethnic and religious demography, which impacts their local cultures and language, he stated.
Even after 71 years, locals are still waiting for their languages to be taught in schools and this lack of recognition of local identity has damaged social fabric, Sering rued.
Jobs in Gilgit go to Pakistanis who control locals with iron fist donning military uniforms. There is no industry in Gilgit-Baltistan, Sering said.
Locals have been banned from extracting and selling their mineral wealth, while the Chinese, Pakistanis and other foreigners are granted a free hand to extract the same, he said.
Most of these raw materials are exported to China and locals do not get anything in return, he added.
The locals also have no right to claim earnings, compensation or royalty over their water resources like rivers and dams. They have no access to clean water in neighbourhoods despite owning an immense wealth of glaciers, rivers and lakes, Sering said.
This often leads to protests and rallies regularly, he said.
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