Shutdown in Ladakh: Muslims, Buddhists join hands to demand statehood

Buddhist and Muslim coalitions battling for Ladakh’s special status and statehood have called for a ‘Kargil Bandh’ and ‘Leh Chalo’ on Saturday, February 3, in an effort to pressure the Center to fulfil their demands.

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The people of Leh have been asked to participate in a march, and Kargil residents have been asked to observe a complete shutdown. The call has been given jointly by the Kargil Democratic Alliance, which represents Muslim organisations in Kargil, and the Leh Apex Body, an alliance that represents Buddhist groups in Leh.

The two alliances have urged the people to observe a complete bandh together to fight for statehood and special status under the Constitution’s sixth schedule, the establishment of a public service commission, job reservations for locals, an early recruitment drive, and separate representation for the Leh and Kargil districts in Parliament.

The call coincided with the announcement on Friday, February 2, by the central government that delegates from Ladakh and its own representatives will have a second round of negotiations in Delhi on February 19 under the direction of Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Nityanand Rai.

In order to address the concerns of Kargil and Leh, the twin districts of Ladakh, the Center formed a committee under the leadership of Rai in January 2023.

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.

“We are suffering historical disempowerment today, despite announcements in Parliament that we will be empowered. Leader of the Kargil Democratic Alliance, Sajjad Kargili, asked Kargilites to follow a total shutdown and Leh residents to participate in the march in large numbers, saying, “We hope our joint efforts will bear fruit.”

“We are fighting together for democracy, our language, and our culture,” he continued.

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out of Jammu and Kashmir in 2019, when Jammu and Kashmir itself was reduced to a UT and its special status was withdrawn.

The two communities, which were previously known for their animosity against one another, have teamed up to reserve property and jobs out of concern that they would be overrun by outsiders.

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