Along the lines of Kashmir and Leh, a new alliance seeking restoration of full statehood and Article 370, which granted special status to undivided Jammu and Kashmir, has emerged in Kargil district in the Union Territory of Ladakh. The alliance aims to safeguard the interest of the indigenous population of the region. Formed on October 29, the Kargil Democratic Alliance (KDA) comprises students, religious and political organisations who have come together to ensure protection for their region.
Two days ago, the KDA had its first meeting with former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah who had visited Drass area of Kargil region as a part of the People Alliance for Gupkar Declaration, a political alliance formed to restore Article 370 after it was revoked on August 5 last year.
The objectives of the newly formed alliance in Kargil revolve around restoring the special status and return of statehood to Jammu and Kashmir. Notably, the members of the alliance have clearly distanced themselves from the demands of Sixth Schedule made by Leh for the Union Territory of Ladakh. However, one of their key demands is the separate statehood for Ladakh.
Speaking to NewsClick, Former Chief Executive Councillor (CEC) and co-chairman of Kargil Democratic Alliance, Asgar Ali Karbalai said, “We don’t want to be governed by bureaucrats or by someone appointed by Delhi. We want to be governed by ourselves. We want to have our own legislation. We want to have our own executive power. So, if the Centre is serious about development in Ladakh, they should provide full statehood to the region instead of Sixth Schedule as demanded by Leh.”
In the next few days, the KDA will be meeting the apex body of the Peoples Movement for Sixth Schedule – an amalgamation of political, religious and student’s organisations, to discuss the future of Ladakh. Qammar Ali Akhoon, co-chairman of KDA and senior leader from National Conference, said that Kargil does not support Leh’s demand for Sixth Schedule and would suggest them to give it up and instead, seek statehood.
“First and foremost, Kargil’s demand has been the restoration of pre-August 5 position. We have always opposed the formation of the UT and the bifurcation of the state. But in the current situation, instead of Sixth Schedule, we would want the status of statehood to be given to us,” Akhoon said.
However, a member of the Peoples Movement for Sixth Schedule, Chering Dorjay Lakrook, who had recently resigned from the position of Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) president for Ladakh, said that “the idea of statehood is new for them”. “Yes, we will be meeting in a few days. But this idea of statehood is quite new for us and I have not discussed with others. So I am not in a position to comment right now,” he said.
A year ago, the Modi governments decision to scrap the special status of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcate it into two separate Union Territories left all the three regions – Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh--in turmoil. Karbalai said the decision was “unwanted and without the consultation of the people.”
Leh and Jammu which had initially celebrated the decision are now on the roads demanding safeguards, employment and development. Recently, Leh had boycotted the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LADHC) polls, and formed Peoples’ Movement for Sixth Schedule demanding constitutional safeguards for Leh under the Sixth Schedule of the Indian Constitution. However, the polls were later conducted and results were declared on October 26 after leaders from the Centre arrived in Leh and the Home Ministry had assured the delegation, which had met Home Minister Amit Shah in Delhi, of conceding to their demands.
The upcoming meeting between Kargil Democratic Alliance and Peoples’ Movement unit of Leh district is another reminder that Leh has not forgotten the demand for its constitutional safeguards even after the Centre placated the region to conduct the LADHC polls. Karbalai believes that the demand for Sixth Schedule by Leh is similar to the restoration of special status under Article 370 as Kargil has been demanding.
“Leh has realised that they were deceived and hence, their demand for Sixth Schedule is similar to what Article 370 used to offer them – protection of land, jobs and environment. And Kargil believes that this demand is not the solution to the problems that Ladakh is facing and this shall be conveyed to them in the upcoming meeting,” Karbalai told Newsclick.
Meanwhile, Jammu, a right-wing hotbed, has recently come up with Jammu Declaration demanding statehood and protection for jobs and land. However, as the Jammu Declaration is still shaping up, the coming together of political and social organisations, including the right-wing organisations, has underlined the anxieties prevailing in the region.
The recently announced land reforms that allow outsiders to buy land in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir have also drawn criticism from the mainstream political parties in Jammu. National Panthers Party (NPP) and PDP leaders from Jammu had taken to streets to protest against the new land reforms while demanding its immediate rollback.
“The BJP has, once again, cheated the people of Jammu and Kashmir over the protection of land and jobs. The new land law enacted by the government is a breach of trust of the people of Jammu and Kashmir in general, and Jammu region in particular. The decision has sent ripples and shockwaves through the people. The saffron regime is hell-bent to change the demography of the UT,” Harsh Dev Singh, Chairman of the Panthers Party, said.