Muslims oppose Ladakh''s Union Territory demand
7 August 2001
LEH: The demand to make Ladakh a union territory (UT) is confined to the Buddhists of Leh district, and it is loosing momentum with the opposition from the majority Muslims The Muslim population in the Ladakh region is 1,11,729 while the Buddhist population 1,5,956 But the president of the Ladakh Buddhists Association (LBA), Mr Tsering Samphel, who frequents Jammu and Delhi rather than Srinagar, says ''we are talking on behalf of the entire Ladakh'' According to him, the Leh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC) is the first step towards the separation from the State . Leh Buddhists vociferously support the UT demand. This is despite the fact that two Buddhists are in the Farooq Abdullah Government - Mr. T. Namgayal, MLA from Nobra, and Mr. Koushak Togdan Rimpooche, nominated MLC. A religious leader, Mr. Koushak Thicksay, is a National Conference MP in the Rajya Sabha. But Muslims of Leh district from Turtuk to Chechoot oppose the demand. The recently-formed Leh Muslim Coordination Committee (LMCC) voiced its protest against the demand during Mr. K.C. Pant''s visit here in June last. ''Unfortunately the media played up the LBA demand,'' says Mr. Mohammad Shafi Lassu, LMCC chairman. Even the people of Kargil district are opposed to the UT demand. Haji Abdul Qadir, councillor from Turtuk in the LAHDC, echoes the view saying there is no question of separation from Jammu and Kashmir. An agitation is planned in Kargil against ''the manipulation by one community (Buddhists) which is being trusted by powers in Delhi''. (Kargil had rejected the idea of Hill Council when it came into existence in Leh in 1995.) The two representative bodies in the district - the Imam Khumaini Memorial Trust (IKMT) and the Islamia School - object to the view that the UT demand is those of the majority people from the Ladakh region. The Ladakh MP, Mr. Hassan Khan, has repeatedly said the demand is confined to a particular community. Mr. Asghar Karbalahi, IKMT vice-chairman, has said that despite Muslims being in the majority, Ladakh has been sending a Muslim to Parliament only since 1989.