Those with guns are heard, we arenít, Ladakhis tell Pant
30 May 2001
The Hindustan Times
Leh: THE CENTRE's interlocutor to Jammu and Kashmir visited Ladakh on Wednesday for the same reason he is visiting the rest of the state: "To listen and to understand." All fronts in Ladakh, without exception, demanded Union Territory status. The town of Leh closed its business to participate in a procession. Their only intention was to let Pant know that Ladakh did not want to be dictated from Srinagar anymore. In a letter to Pant, 19 representatives of various groups - including the National Conference, the Congress and the Ladakh Buddhist Association - met Pant to make their demand. Thupstan Chhewiang, Chairman and Chief Executive Councillor of the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council, said, "It seems that the Government of India listens more seriously to people who have guns. We have always been loyal to India but the Centre ends up listening to people in Srinagar. It's strange." All the leaders welcomed the Prime Minister's invitation to General Pervez Musharraf. They thought this was the right time for Ladakhis to demand what they wanted. Tsering Samphel, President of the Ladakh Buddhist Association, reinstated the dangers of not listening to their demands. "Farooq Abdullah has already started communalising Ladakhi polity. We wish to break free from Kashmir. Kashmir and Jammu could be made two states, with Kashmir given whatever power its people want. But we must be heard in our demand for making Ladakh a UT." Pant said that he had taken note of the demand made by "most" parties. He also talked about development and tourism in the area. About the chances of the UT demand being taken more seriously Pant said, "A dialogue is on. This is the difference. One shouldn"t jump to end results and spoil the dialogue." Pant returned to Srinagar later today. He was scheduled to meet former chief minister B M Shah, but the appointment was cancelled by the latter as Pant was delayed in his return from Leh. Meanwhile, a three-member delegation of Panun Kashmir, an organisation of Kashmiri Pandits, today met K C Pant in Srinagar and pressed their demand for a separate homeland with Union Territory status within Kashmir valley.