SRINAGAR, OCTOBER 31: The Valley-based seven-party alliance fighting for the restoration of Article 370 received a rousing reception and warm support in Kargil on Friday, dealing a blow to the Centre’s efforts to wean Ladakhis off Kashmiris’ political campaigns.
The People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration, making its first outreach to Kargil, won support from a local coalition of political, religious and social bodies.
The development was equally a setback for Ladakh’s Buddhist alliance, which has been seeking Muslim-majority Kargil’s support in its battle to have the fledgling Union Territory included in the autonomy-granting 6th Schedule of the Constitution.
The Centre has been unsuccessfully trying to convince Kargil that the amendment of Article 370 and bifurcation of Jammu & Kashmir, of which Ladakh was a part, has been good for them and that their future will be safe in the Union Territory of Ladakh.
Friday’s development suggests that Kargil wants a return to a Jammu & Kashmir that is an undivided, full-fledged state with the special status granted by Article 370.
Asgar Karbalai, a Congress leader from Kargil, said the local leadership had met the Valley delegation led by former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and offered support to its campaign.
“One thing common to the People’s Alliance and the Kargil Alliance is that we are all for restoration of the erstwhile state along with Article 370 and Article 35A. We are not going to back off”, Karbalai told reporters after the meeting.
Ladakh has 2 districts: Leh and Kargil. Leh has a Buddhist majority that supports the abrogation of Article 370 but wants similar privileges for Ladakh under the 6th Schedule. Overall, Muslims enjoy a slender majority in Ladakh.
Omar said he was open to talks with the Buddhist leadership of Leh. He accused the BJP of trying to divide the people of the erstwhile state on the basis of religion and region.
“They claim we are anti-national. Our fight is not against the country but (against) the BJP…. Whatever we demand is a part of the Indian Constitution. We will not give up our fight,” Omar said.
Kargil politician Sajjad Hussain said Omar’s delegation had received a warm welcome everywhere in the district, with people lining the roads to receive it.
“Kargil never supported the demand by the Leh parties, and what the (Kargil) parties reiterated here today is certainly a setback for their (Buddhist leadership’s) efforts (to forge Ladakhi unity behind the 6th Schedule demand),” he said.
In Leh, Ladakh Buddhist Association president P T Kunzang accused the Kargil leadership of sailing in two boats.
“On the one hand they are with Kashmir and on the other they take all the benefits that come to Ladakh in the shape of Scheduled Tribe status or autonomous councils. They have to decide whether they want to be a part of Kashmir or Ladakh,” Kunzang told this newspaper.
“If they put their feet in two boats, there is the chance of drowning…We are in touch with them and we sincerely want to take them on board.”
Hussain said the Kargil leadership had all along supported the unity of the erstwhile state and never sailed in two boats.
In Srinagar, the Government prevented People’s Alliance president Farooq Abdullah from visiting the Hazratbal shrine where a festival was under way. The alliance has termed the move an interference in his religious rights.