Buddhists demand autonomy for Ladakh
13 June 2000
Leh: The moves for working out an autonomy package for Jammu and Kashmir are likely to face a determined demand for a separate solution for Ladakh. The Ladakh Buddhist Association (LBA) is expected to shortly launch an agitation to hammer its point in discussions, it feels will be taken up by the Centre, on political issues concerning the State. The informal exchanges that the Buddhist leadership in Ladakh and the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Council has had with the Centre has led to an assessment here that the talks on autonomy could deal with restoring the pre-1953 status for Jammu and Kashmir. The Hill Council feels it should oppose greater autonomy for the State, but is of the opinion that the fate of Ladakh should not be clubbed with the rest of Jammu and Kashmir. It has been our experience that the Hill Council does not get the freedom it deserves. While the National Conference (NC) Government is entitled to ask for more autonomy, so are we, Thupstan Chhewang, chairman and chief executive officer of the Council told The Pioneer. The Hill Council chairman feels that in the event of a deal which substantially accommodates the NC point of view, Ladakh should be accorded a different arrangement. The LBA and the Council are not specific over what they have in mind for Ladakh, but it is pointed out that the old demand for a union territory status could be revived. There is considerable interest here over reports of political opinion that favours a trifurcation of the State, and the Council seems keen on getting rid of the apron strings of the Farooq Abdullah Government.