by Yawar Hussain

SRINAGAR: As the cold desert union territory (UT) of Ladakh braces for a protest today for statehood, additional parliament seats, and Schedule 6 protections, the National Conference Vice President Omar Abdullah landed in Kargil on Monday apparently to lend support for the statehood to the region.

Incidentally, junior Abdullah’s visit came on the foundation day ceremony of the Union Territory for Ladakh.

NC Vice President Omar Abdullah addressing workers convention in Bandipora on Thursday, December 16, 2021.

Earlier, the Kargil Democratic Alliance— an amalgam of different political and religious parties—along with the Apex Body—an amalgam of Leh’s socio-religious and political parties including the Bharatiya Janata Party unit—last week announced a protest on November 2, for full statehood to the region, a legislature, more seats in the parliament and along with protections under Schedule 6 of the Indian constitution.

Abdullah, who accused Ladakh’s Lieutenant Governor administration of denying him access to Dak Bangalow and using a mike system in a party meeting, said that his party would have been happy if the people of Ladakh were satisfied with the union territory status.

“The people in Leh are facing the brunt of what happened on August 5 more than the people of Kargil because the bureaucrats are running everything. At least in Kargil, the Chief Executive of the Hill Development Council doesn’t have the daily interference of the bureaucracy,” Abdullah said.

He said that everyone goes to the Lieutenant Governor and the Chief Secretary instead of the Leh Autonomous Hill Development Council’s (LAHDC) Chief Executive Councillor. “Only people interested in sipping tea go to the LHDC office.”

Leaders from Kargil and Leh had a joint press conference in August 2021. They are demanding a full-fledged state

The KDA and Apex Body jointly in a press conference put forth the protest on November 2, for pushing their demands. Lawmaker of the erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir Assembly and KDA leader Asgar Karbalaie said the government of India would have been thinking that the KDA and Apex Body have forgotten their four-point agenda but today’s announcement for a protest would give them the answer.

The KDA and Apex Body have created a core group that would formulate the future strategy for attaining the four-point demands. Tsering Dorjay and Nasir Munshi would be the Conveners of the Core Committee while Thupstan Chhewang, Padma Stanzin, Thinles Angmo, Qamar Ali Akhoon, Sajjad Kargali, and Asgar Karbalaie would be the members.

“Protests will be intensified across Ladakh and this will make the Government of India realise that Ladakhi people will not rest until their demands are not addressed,” Karbalaie said, adding that mobilising the people would continue.

A long procession of residents of Leh seeking protection against the constitution. File Photo

The protest for more powers to Ladakh post-August 5 began with the two local groupings uniting in their struggle for “meaningful autonomy” for Ladakh in August 2021.

Later, it was the KDA and Apex body who resolved more than half-century-old controversy surrounding Leh’s claim to build a Buddhist monastery (Gompa) on land within Kargil town apportioned in 1969 for residential and commercial use by Buddhists from Leh.

On September 3, Kargil agreed to allot additional land just outside the main town to construct the monastery.

Karbalaie in the press conference referred to the controversy, alleging that it was raked up to create a wedge between the regions that failed “miserably”.

Meanwhile, Abdullah’s visit amid the protest has heated up the cold desert region more.

Tashi Gyalson, Chief Executive Councillor LAHDC-Leh, led the Foundation Day celebration of the Union Territory of Ladakh and paid tribute to the late 19th-century Buddhist lama Kushok Bakula Rinpoche.

“The status of a Union Territory [for Ladakh] was the dream of Rinpoche and the dream was finally realised in the year 2019 with the support of the Central government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. I appeal to my people to come forward and join us in developing Ladakh ahead in this new journey. Today is the birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the first Deputy Prime Minister and the Home Minister of Independent India. As the nation celebrates this day as National Unity day, we must thank Sardar Patel for all the work he did in integrating India,” Gyalson said.

Earlier the BJP Ladakh unit “condemned” Abdullah’s visit to the region on the day of UT celebrations.


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