Demand For UT Status For Ladakh Gains Strength
13 June 2004
The Times of India
New Delhi: As the Centre prepares to resume talks with the Hurriyat Conference, the Ladakhis are again pressing for their demand for grant of Union territory status since they feel 'unwanted' by the state's leadership. Though the demand is not new, it has gained fresh momentum with the willingness of the Centre to engage in a positive dialogue to resolve the long-pending issues in J&K. The election to the Lok Sabha of Thupstan Chhewang, a Buddhist from Ladakh after a long gap, has also helped. Along with P Namgyal, former Union minister, he met home minister Shivraj Patil earlier this week to press for what he calls 'a better deal for the people of Ladakh'. Ladakhis are sore that in any talks on J&K, Ladakh gets ignored. 'We do not mind the J&K regions getting greater autonomy, but that should not be at our cost. So we want Union territory status that would help us grow as part of the national mainstream and also ensure security of our strategically placed region,' Thupstan said. The Centre's interlocutor for the J&K talks, N N Vohra, will be in Srinagar on Thursday as co-chairman of the Indo-EU Group. He is expected to utilise his visit to sound out leaders of some of the major group in the Valley on a formal meeting, which Patil has indicated could take place in the first or second week of next month.