Kargil Bandh’, ‘Leh Chalo’: Buddhist and Muslim alliances call for Ladakh statehood

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Srinagar, Feb 3: Buddhist and Muslim alliances in Ladakh that are fighting for the region’s statehood and special status have called for a “Kargil Bandh” and “Leh Chalo” on Saturday to force the Centre to accept their demands.

The Leh Apex Body, an alliance representing Buddhist groups in Leh, and the Kargil Democratic Alliance, which represents Muslim groups in Kargil, have asked Leh residents to take part in a march and Kargil residents to observe a complete shutdown on Saturday.

The two alliances have asked people to unite to fight for statehood and special status under the sixth schedule of the Constitution, the creation of a public service commission, job reservations for locals, an early recruitment drive and separate representation for Leh and Kargil districts in Parliament.

The call has come as the central government on Friday announced a second round of talks between its representatives led by Union minister of state for home, Nityanand Rai, and Ladakh representatives on February 19 in Delhi.

The Centre had set up a committee led by Rai in January last year to discuss the demands of Ladakh’s twin districts — Kargil and Leh.

The committee was reconstituted last November since there were accusations that it was making no progress. The reconstituted committee held the first round of talks in December in Delhi.

“Announcements were made in Parliament that we would be empowered but the fact is today we are facing historical disempowerment. We hope our joint efforts will bear fruit,” Sajjad Kargili, a leader in the Kargil Democratic Alliance, said in a video, asking Kargilites to observe a complete shutdown and Leh residents to take part in the march in large numbers.

“This is a joint struggle for all of us, for democracy, protection of our culture and language,” he added.

Ladakh was carved as a separate Union Territory out of Jammu and Kashmir in 2019 when Jammu and Kashmir itself was reduced to a UT and its special status was withdrawn.

Ladakhi Buddhists had cheered the decision, while Muslims had opposed the move. The two communities, otherwise known for hostilities against each other, have since then joined hands for land and job reservations as they fear they will be overwhelmed by non-locals.

They have held multiple joint protests to press for their demands, but the Centre seems unwilling to budge.

The two communities joined hands last week against the Union health ministry’s decision to change the name of its health and wellness centres to “Ayushman Arogya Mandirs”. Following the outrage, the BJP-led Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council, Leh, proposed to re-brand these centres as “Tsey-Ring Nadmed Tsonas” (centres of long life and well-being in local Bhoti language) and delete the suffix Mandir.

The protest was led by the Ladakh Buddhist Association, whose president Chering Dorjey accused the Centre of “playing with the sentiments of the Ladakhi people”.

Source :- The Telegram Online

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