Interview: Member of Parliament, Ladakh, Haji Mohmad Haneefa Jan

Tsering Dolkar (TD): Congratulations on winning the election! What worked in your favour in this election? Did you expect to win by a margin of 27,862 votes?
Haji Mohmad Haneefa Jan (HMHJ): Thank you! What worked in my favour is that I had filed the nomination taking into consideration the issues facing Ladakh i.e. the four-point agenda. We did not draft a manifesto and let people know that I will focus on the four-point agenda for which the people of Ladakh, especially Apex Body, Leh and Kargil Democratic Alliance (KDA), have been fighting. I spoke on this issue with the people of Ladakh and it is on this basis that people had given me the mandate. I have received more support than I expected. We were expecting to win by a margin of 18,000 to 20,000 votes. Very few people have won an election by such a big margin in the history of Ladakh. People have showered me with a lot of love and support.

TD: What impact do you think communalism, regionalism and factionalism had in this election? How do you plan to bridge these divisions and unite Ladakh?
HMHJ: I don’t think these factors played any role in this election. The people of Ladakh did not vote on the basis of religion or region. The best thing about this election was that it was based on the issue of Ladakh. The regional divisions that have influenced previous parliamentary elections were not evident in this election. In Leh, there were two party candidates and I was the only candidate from Kargil. I received votes from Zangskar, Buddhist-dominated parts of Kargil district as well as different parts of Leh district. Thus, there was no voting on the basis of religiou or regional affiliations. After I won the election, I met people in Leh and Kargil and everyone was happy with the result as I had contested the election for Ladakh. I am committed to representing all the people of Ladakh and being the voice of Apex Body, Leh and KDA. I am thankful to everyone for ensuring that the election was conducted peacefully. Now it is my responsibility to be the voice of the people of Ladakh irrespective of their identity and to represent them in the Parliament.

TD: What is your vision for the next five years?
HMHJ: The first agenda is to initiate talks with the government on the four-point agenda. I believe that these issues can only be resolved through talks. The biggest challenge for me is related to the youth of Ladakh. They have been frustrated over the last four-five years and I intend to address the issues they face. We have to restore our recruitment procedures that have been dormant. The public service commission issue will have my full attention as our youth have been working hard for these jobs. In addition, every region in Ladakh has their own issues, I will be speaking to people from all regions in Ladakh to identify the issues they face and work to address them. There are a lot of things that need to be done. Overall, I will prioritise education, health and the welfare of our youth along with specific issues related to different regions in Ladakh.

TD: What are your priorities? How do you plan to further the agenda put forth by Apex Body, Leh and KDA?
HMHJ: As I mentioned, I will focus on the four-point agenda. In addition, I will prioritise issues related to the youth of Ladakh in terms of ensuring they have access to livelihood opportunities along with restoration of UT level recruitment to fill vacancies in Ladakh. I will also focus on the health sector to strengthen the district hospitals along with the health system across the region. I will also try and identify other issues facing Ladakh as well as different regions that require attention. I have been a founding member of KDA. Once KDA and Apex Body, Leh came together, they were able to unite the people of Ladakh to start thinking about the future of Ladakh. I will take this forward along with the leadership in Apex Body, Leh and KDA. I will continue consulting them and working with them to secure Ladakh’s future.

TD: How do you plan to work with the government as you are an independent? Do you think this will hinder the aspirations of the people of Ladakh?
HMHJ: I am confident that we can resolve these issues through talks with the government. I believe that in the past five years the reality experienced by the people of Ladakh may not have been communicated to the government properly. My first priority will be to meet with the Minister of Home Affairs. I have to communicate the concerns of the people of Ladakh in clear terms to the government. I am confident that if I am able to take this message from the people of Ladakh to the government, they will act in the interest of the people of Ladakh and for the people of Ladakh. As far as being an independent is concerned, for me the most important thing is the four-point agenda. In this regard, I will be speaking to the members of the government as well as the opposition in the Parliament. I have to discuss it with everyone. It is important I present the issues faced by Ladakh to everyone in a clear way. The general public of Ladakh elected me and I represent all of Ladakh. Thus, irrespective of who is in the government, we have to think about the mandate from the general public and work to protect their interest. So, once the government is formed I will start meeting different people including the Prime Minister, Home Minister, and everyone who can help Ladakh.

TD: There have been some differences in the demands that have emerged from Leh and Kargil with regard to the future of Ladakh. How will you build consensus on Ladakh’s future?
HMHJ: Apex Body, Leh and KDA have developed the four-point agenda together. It focusses on restoration of democracy, statehood, constitutional safeguards under Sixth Schedule and creation of Ladakh Public Service Commission. Leh and Kargil are united on the four-point agenda and that will be my focus.

TD: There were significant rifts in the political arena before the election across all parties. You were District President of J&K National Conference (NC) in Kargil. Did the party high command pressure the Kargil unit to support the INC candidate that led to the resignation of NC members in Kargil?
HMHJ: Yes, there was pressure from the party high command. That’s why all the members of J&K NC in Kargil resigned from the party. I had already resigned after people had united and chosen me as the candidate. The J&K NC leadership had its own priority while I prioritised Ladakh and our unity. When they pressured us, we informed them that we support the interests of Ladakh and if they persisted, we would be compelled to leave the party.

TD: Anything you would like to add?
HMHJ: We have made promises to the general public of Ladakh. I pray to the Almighty that I am able to meet the expectations of the people and fulfil the promises I have made with regard to the four-point agenda. I will work with full honesty and commitment over the next five years for the people of Ladakh to address their development and various issues related to Ladakh. I do not know how successful I will be but I will do my best to fulfil the expectations of the people of Ladakh and ensure that the future of the region is secure.

By Tsering Dolkar

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