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‘Buddhist and Muslim Alliances Unite for Ladakh Statehood: ‘Kargil Bandh’, ‘Leh Chalo”

India'Buddhist and Muslim Alliances Unite for Ladakh Statehood: 'Kargil Bandh', 'Leh Chalo''

Buddhist and Muslim alliances in Ladakh, advocating for the region’s statehood and special status, have jointly called for a “Kargil Bandh” and “Leh Chalo” on Saturday in a bid to compel the Centre to acknowledge their demands.

The Leh Apex Body, representing Buddhist groups in Leh, and the Kargil Democratic Alliance, representing Muslim groups in Kargil, have urged residents of Leh to participate in a march and residents of Kargil to observe a complete shutdown on Saturday.

The two alliances are rallying people to unite in their quest for statehood and special status under the sixth schedule of the Constitution. Their demands also include 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.

This call for action coincides with the central government’s announcement of 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.

A committee, led by Rai, was established by the Centre in January last year to address the demands of Ladakh’s twin districts — Kargil and Leh. The committee was reconstituted last November after accusations of lack of progress, and it held the first round of talks in December in Delhi.

Despite promises of empowerment in Parliament, leaders like Sajjad Kargili from the Kargil Democratic Alliance expressed disappointment, claiming historical disempowerment. He called for joint efforts and solidarity in the struggle for democracy, cultural protection, and language preservation.

Ladakh was designated a separate Union Territory in 2019 when Jammu and Kashmir was reorganized into a Union Territory, losing its special status. While Ladakhi Buddhists welcomed the decision, Muslims opposed it, leading to an unusual alliance between the two communities for land and job reservations, fearing the influx of non-locals.

Despite numerous joint protests, the Centre has shown reluctance to meet their demands. Recently, the two communities collaborated against the Union health ministry’s decision to change the name of health and wellness centres. The protest, led by the Ladakh Buddhist Association, accused the Centre of playing with the sentiments of the Ladakhi people. In response, the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council, Leh, proposed re-branding the centres in the local Bhoti language, reflecting a collaborative effort against perceived injustices.

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