Ladakh: Paradise shattered
It was as if walking in a vast burial ground, almost like having a dialogue with death.
A deadly silence had enveloped us all.
No one was talking to each other. Not even the birds -- of solace, of tears of agony, or helplessness. Everything seemed to have frozen in Choglumsar.
Ladakh, a hub once full of life, joy and welcome to tourists coming from various corners of the planet, known as moonland for its sheer beauty and heavenly closeness to the Gods, and the land of the Sindhu (Indus) river and Buddha, its tranquility stands shattered today.
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Image: A villager beside her destroyed house
Photographs: Tarun Vijay
The army appeared like God
The army appeared like God to the people in distress, and so were the brave Ladakhis who stood firm in these traumatic times.
Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh workers, who were camping by sheer coincidence in Choglumsar, rushed to the site immediately.
Ladakh Buddhist Association workers were in the forefront providing relief everywhere, and so were Sikh, Christian and Muslim organisations.
Image: Lord Buddha on the window of a house in ruins
The stench is spreading in the city
The hospital does not have up-to-date medical equipment; not even a morgue.
The unidentified bodies are lying in the open, decomposing and spreading stench in Leh city.
Even when all was normal, post mortems were conducted in a garage.
Image: Army personnel extract the body of a young boy from the rubble
'Floods?? In Ladakh?? What do you need this money for?'
"We had applied for Rs 83 crore (Rs 830 million) for flood relief, offered by the Centre three years before, to the Jammu and Kashmir government. The minister in charge in Srinagar laughed it away saying, 'Floods?? In Ladakh?? What do you need this money for?'"
The Council applied to upgrade the local hospital into a 200-bed establishment under the government's National Health Mission. The proposal has yet to be approved.
Image: A trunk with memories among the rubble
A critical area ignored
Its boys have won Maha Vir Chakras and many more wartime decorations for valour.
But government planners ignore all its demands for progress and infrastructure, looking at its population, a little more than 200,000 people.
But the bureaucrats do not understand that the area of this one district is more than Himachal Pradesh, Punjab or Haryana.
One revenue district often spreads out over 80 square km, with a road as long as 45 km needed to join two localities!
Image: The State Bank of India branch at Choglunsar was destroyed
They sing the national anthem, but who cares?
"Money is spent like water to divide Buddhist society and political ravines created to weaken their voice," says one Ladakhi leader in bitterness. "They want us to turn like the Hurriyat and demand independence. Only then would our basic demands be met."
The memory of missing persons brings a sense of fear enveloped in trauma. In October, winter will bring more misery, the tents will not suffice.
Image: Relief camps in Leh
Ladakh needs the warmth of belonging
Till then wrecked families will undergo emotional disaster over the missing bodies of dear ones.
Ladakh needs the warmth of belonging more than anything else.
Image: Ladakhi women show photographs of missing relatives in the hope they will be found some day