The Government of India has constituted a high-powered composite committee to address the undercurrents of unrest in sections of the populations in Ladakh, comprising the Buddhist-dominated Leh district and the Muslim-dominated Kargil district, with regard to creation of the Union Territory (UT) out of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act in August 2019.
Creation of the UT, independent of the erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir, was a long time demand of the majority of the population in Leh. Contrarily, a large number of the population in Kargil seemed to be in favour of continuation with J&K. Even after the UT of Ladakh was created, the people of Leh district demanded a Bodoland-type hill council with powers under the 6th schedule of the Constitution of India. Many of them were not satisfied with a UT without legislature.
For the first in the last about two years, the people of Kargil have agreed to be a part of Ladakh subject to the condition that the UT of Ladakh is upgraded to a separate State with its own Assembly on the pattern of Sikkim in 1975.
On an invitation from the Centre, an eleven-member delegation of the Kargil Democratic Council (KDC) met the Union Minister of State for Home, GK Reddy, in New Delhi on Thursday. According to the participants, all the issues were discussed threadbare and the Government of India constituted a high-powered panel, with representation from the Centre as well as Leh and Kargil districts, with the responsibility of finding a solution acceptable to the people of both the districts and both the religious communities.
The committee headed by the union MoS Home GK Reddy would include senior functionaries from the MHA, the UT administration of Ladakh, Chief Executive Councillors and Chairpersons of the Leh and Kargil hill councils, the representatives of the two political conglomerates from Leh and Kargil besides the Lok Sabha member from Ladakh.
Constitution of the committee was announced by Mr Reddy after a 150-minute long meeting with the 11-member KDA delegation in New Delhi on Thursday. Union Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla as well as the Additional and Joint Secretaries looking after the UTs of J&K and Ladakh, were also present. Well-placed authoritative sources said that Mr Reddy and his team would also have a discussion with the Leh conglomerate headed by Thupstan Chhewang. Chewang is a former member of Parliament and a former leader of the Ladakh Buddhist Association.
The KDA delegation included its co-chairpersons—Qamar Ali Akhoon (ex-Minister and the National Conference MLA from Kargil) and Asgar Ali Karbalai (ex-MLA of Congress from Kargil), former Minister and MLA from Zanaskar Feroz Khan, who is currently CEC and Chairman of Ladakh Area Hill Development Council Kargil, Sajad Kargili, the representative of Islamiya School Kargil (ISK), who had contested and lost the 2019 Lok Sabha election as an Independent candidate, Sheikh Bashir, the representative of Imam Khomeini Memorial Trust (IKMT), Aga Syed Mohammad, the representative of the Noorbakshia Shia group, Shah Nawaz, the representative of Ahle Sunnat Wa al-Jamaat, Zakir Hussain of Student Education Movement of Kargil, Haji Haniefa Jan, NC’s District President of Kargil, Nasir Hussain Munshi, District President of Congress in Kargil and Syed Ahmad Rizvi of Anjuman-e-Sahib-uz-Zamaan.
“The discussions were free and frank and were held in a cordial atmosphere. This was for the first time that the leaders from Kargil got such an opportunity and passionate hearing at an all-important platform of the Government of India. All the invitees spoke their hearts and Mr Reddy as well as his team took necessary notes”, one of the participants revealed. “The participants in one voice demanded a separate State with empowered Assembly for Ladakh on the pattern of Sikkim if reunification of the Kargil district, comprising Kargil and Zanskar Assembly segments of J&K’s erstwhile Assembly, with J&K was not possible and restoration of Statehood and Articles 370 and 35-A was a problem for being sub judice or for other reasons”.
The participant from Kargil said that KDA’s demand of empowered Statehood and legislature for Ladakh was indigenous and independent of the politics associated with the same subject in Kashmir and Jammu. “When we demand restoration of 370 and 35-A, it is purely in the context of safeguards of our land, government jobs and culture and shouldn’t be linked with any community or religion”, he asserted. “The UT without legislature means nothing. Fortunately the people of Leh have also begun to realise it, though late”.