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Kargil coalition distances from J&K; wants Statehood with Assembly for Ladakh

The Shyok river in Ladakh (Pic: Courtesy wikimedia commons)

Ahead of its meeting with the Union Minister of State for Home, GK Reddy, in New Delhi on Thursday, 1 July, Kargil Democratic Alliance (KDA) has distanced from the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir and endorsed the Muslim-dominated district’s unification with Ladakh. The conglomerate of about a dozen political, religious, social and student groups has, however, set a condition: Conversion of the UT of Ladakh into a ‘full-fledged State with Assembly’.

On an invitation from the Union Ministry of Home Affairs—which came out in days of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s outreach to the J&K mainstream political parties, for the first time after August 2019—a delegation of 11 leaders from the KDA has reached New Delhi to hold a round-table meeting with  GK Reddy on Thursday. Some senior officials of the Union Home Ministry are also expected to be present in the meeting.

Significantly for the first time after withdrawal of the special status from J&K and its break-up into the two UTs of J&K and Ladakh in August 2019, the representative alliance from Kargil has dropped its demand of unification with J&K and restoration of Article 370 and 35-A. After creation of the two separate UTs, the Buddhist-dominated district of Leh had raised the demand of an empowered hill council on the pattern of Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) with powers under 6th Schedule of the Constitution of India, safeguarding interests of the local population.

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When Prime Minister Modi invited the J&K mainstream political parties demanding restoration of “full-fledged Statehood” last week, the leaders from Leh began raising the demand of the legislature for the UT of Ladakh.

Contrarily, Ladkah’s Muslim-dominated Kargil district had demanded integration with J&K and restoration of its Statehood and the special status. Like different constituents of the Peoples Alliance for Gupkar Declaration including Farooq Abdullah’s National Conference (NC) and Mehbooba Mufti’s Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the KDA too filed a petition in the Supreme Court of India, seeking nullification of the J&K Reorganisation Act of August 2019.

Senior NC leader and former Minister Qamar Ali Akhoon and the Congress leader and former MLA Ali Asgar Karbalai are functioning as co-chairpersons of the KDA. The influential Islamia School, Imam Khomeini Trust, Anjuman-e-Sahib-e-Zamaan and Ahl-e-Sunnat Wa-al-Jamaat besides some student unions and social organisations are the key constituents of the alliance.

“From day one after 5 August 2019, we the people of Kargil have demanded restoration of the full Statehood with special status and integration with the J&K State. On the other hand, the people of Leh demanded powers of 6th schedule to the UT of Ladakh. Now they have realised that a UT without legislature means nothing. They are now demanding Statehood. We are ready to become part of the State of Ladakh if granted Assembly”, Akhoon said.

Akhoon claimed that the KDA also had the support from the District Development Council, Block Development Councils, Kargil Bar Association and different associations of students, transporters and traders.

“In response to the invitation, our 11-member delegation is meeting Minister of State GK Reddy on Thursday and pressing the demand of the full Statehood and an Assembly for Ladakh. We are hopeful of a positive response”, Akhoon asserted.

Co-chairperson Karbalai said that conversion of the UT of Ladakh into the State of Ladakh with Assembly was the unanimous demand of the KDA constituents. He asserted that this particular demand was not in conflict with the unanimous demand from Leh and both the districts would be comfortable with a separate State and legislature.

“When Sikkim was created as a State with Assembly in 1975, its total population was 2.5 lakh people and its area was just 7,600 sq km. Our population in Ladakh is currently 3 lakh people and the area is 80,000 sq km. Why don’t we deserve a separate State with legislature?”, Karbalai asked. “We need the people of Ladakh to rule Ladakh, not the LG from Delhi, not the bureaucrats from Delhi”, Karbalai asserted. He said that in the PoK, Gilgit Baltistan, which were parts of the undivided State of J&K, had been accorded the status of a province.

Meanwhile, the Ladakh Buddhist Association’s Kargil branch has sought New Delhi’s  invitation to the Buddhist leaders. It has claimed that the KDA did not represent all shades of opinion and political aspiration of Ladakh.

“KDA does not represent all the communities, religious organizations, civil societies and political parties of district Kargil as claimed by them,” the LBA Kargil leaders said.

“The Buddhist minority community of district Kargil has openly condemned KDA which was and still continues to support the Kashmir-centric PAGD for restoration of Articles 370 and 35-A. Its leaders are inclined towards Kashmir-centric ideology of Gupkar Alliance”, said an LBA leader.

The LBA leaders explained that Buddhist minority community of district Kargil comprises more than 40 revenue villages covering 60 percent area of the whole district Kargil with almost 20 per cent population.

“We the Buddhist minority community of District Kargil, which is a stakeholder in district Kargil, would like to request Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah to kindly invite us separately for the talks with the Government of India. We are not part of the KDA, to whom invitation for talks is already extended,” they said.