Ladakh, Kashmir Leaders Clash In Working Group
3 September 2007
The Daily Excelsior
Jammu: Heated exchanges took place between Buddhist leader and Lok Sabha member from Ladakh, Thupstan Chhewang and two Kashmir leaders including CPM MLA Mohd Yusuf Tarigami and NC MLC Mohd Yusuf Taing when former declared that people of Ladakh want separation from Kashmir while latter rejected the demand and passed 'provocative remarks' against the Ladakhi leader today on Day Two of Working Group on 'Strengthening Centre-State relations' meeting in New Delhi.Another notable development in today's meeting was a stormy walk-out by former Minister and Panthers Party MLA Harshdev Singh and a dharna for sometime outside the meeting venue in protest against 'murder of democracy' by Health and Medical Education Minister Mangat Ram Sharma in the State. Demanding dismissal of Congress led coalition Government and imposition of Governor's rule in the State, Mr Singh indulged in massive shouting and was supported by Mr Chhewang, Leader of Opposition and NC MLA Abdul Rahim Rather and Ashwani Sharma, MLA. He was later persuaded to join the meeting by former bureaucrat N N Vohra, a special invitee to the Group meeting and Assembly Speaker Tara Chand. Official sources said WG chairman Justice (Retd) Sageer Ahmed himself asked Mr Chhewang to give suggestions instead of only highlighting problems of Ladakh region. At this stage, the Ladakhi leader said Ladakh should be separated from Kashmir and that there was a long pending demand of the people to accord Union Territory status to Ladakh. 'Get out of the meeting', a highly agitated CPM leader Mohd Yusuf Tarigami shouted at Mr Chhewang. He was soon joined by NC MLC Mohd Yusuf Taing. 'Who has given you the right to seek separation of Ladakh from Kashmir', Mr Tarigami and Mr Taing asked Mr Chhewang. 'Who are you to shout at me. I'm an elected representative of the people of Ladakh. I represent their voice in Parliament', Thupstan countered. Jammu State Morcha (JSM) MLA Ashwani Sharma immediately came out in support of Mr Chhewang saying the discrimination being meted out to the people of Jammu and Ladakh regions has compelled the people to demand statehood and UT status respectively. Mr Sharma wanted that the Ladakh MP should be allowed to make his point and not disrupted as he was a soft spoken and reputed leader and never disrupts speech of other members. 'While my voice is heard in Ladakh, those who claim to represent Kashmir have absolutely no say in Kashmir', Mr Chhewang said chiding Mr Tarigami and Mr Taing. Following the Chairman's intervention, Mr Chhewang went ahead with his speech saying their demand for UT status to Ladakh was well within the Constitution of India. He regretted 'abusive and insulting' remarks passed against him by Mr Tarigami and Mr Taing and asserted that no one can snatch the right to speak from him. All successive Commissions including Wazir Commission, Gajender Gadkar Commission and Sikri Commission etc have highlighted discrimination with Ladakh but remedial measures were never taken, he said, pointing out that Doda district was smaller than Ladakh where two more districts (Ramban and Kishtwar) have been carved out but not a single extra district was given to Ladakh. Parliament and Assembly seats of Ladakh were also very less, he lamented. He said by-election to one seat of LAHDC was 'shamelessly rigged' by police which reminded the people of 1987 elections rigging. As soon as meeting of the Working Group began, Harshdev Singh was on his feet saying the WG's agenda today was 'democracy, secularism and rule of law' while there was no name of democracy in the State which has 'brutally been murdered' by Mangat Ram Sharma by forcing his suspension from the Assembly for entire session. 'This is unprecedented in the history of Legislature in any part of the country that an elected representative of the people was kept out of the Assembly for full session to suppress the voice of Jammu region and prevent him from exposing misdeeds of the Government', Mr Singh said and staged a stormy walk-out of the Working Group's meeting. Carrying placards 'Dismiss J&K Government', 'Impose Governor's Rule in J&K' and 'Mangat Ram Chor Hai', the JKNPP MLA staged a dharna outside the meeting venue at Kashmir House, Prithvi Raj road. Thupstan Chhewang too came out in support of Mr Singh saying there was no name of democracy left in Jammu and Kashmir. Ashwani Sharma and Dr Chrungoo too came out openly in support of Harshdev and demanded his immediate call back to the Group meeting. Immediately thereafter, N N Vohra, Centre's former interlocutor on Kashmir, Assembly Speaker Tara Chand and former Minister Usmaan Majid came out and took Harshdev Singh back to the meeting. Mr Singh observed that democracy had always been a victim in J&K from the treatment meted out to Hari Singh, then dismissal of Farooq Government in 1984, removal of elected Assembly Speaker Wali Mohd Itoo and forced installation of Mangat Ram Sharma, forced defeat of Bhim Singh in 1988 by-election to Lok Sabha and his suspension from Assembly for full session. He said special status in J&K was being grossly misused for their vested interests by the rulers. 'We have six years Assembly while in all other Indian States, Assembly's term is five years, we have 20 per cent Ministry of total strength of both Houses of Legislature while all other States and Parliament have 15 per cent Ministry of total strength of Lower House', he added and opposed the idea of having an elected Governor for the State. NC leader Abdul Rahim Rather, in his presentation today, trained his guns on former Union Law Minister and BJP leader Arun Jaitley, who had yesterday demanded abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution, granting special status to the State. 'There is no way to abrogate Article 370 of the Constitution, which required recommendation of J&K's Constituent Assembly, which has long back ceased to exist', he claimed. 'The leaders seeking scrapping of Article 370 of the Constitution were ignorant about the Constitutional provisions. J&K is the only State of the country which has negotiated its terms of membership of the Union', Mr Rather recalled and said it was after long and thorough deliberations between State leaders led by the then Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru that Article 370 of the Indian Constitution came into existence. He demanded restoration of State's autonomy as guaranteed by the Instrument of Accession, Presidential Order of 1950 and Delhi Agreement of 1952. It is senseless erosion of the autonomy that is the major cause of discontent in Kashmir, he asserted. Referring to secularism, Ashwani Sharma wanted to know what steps the leaders of Kashmir have taken to take back three lakh Kashmiri Pandits who were thrown out of the Valley 17 years back. The institution of MLA, Panchayats and urban local bodies should be strengthened in the State, he said. He added that time was not ripe to withdraw Armed Force Special Powers Act in the State. Instead, he asserted, more security forces will be required as 2008 was election year in the State. Arun Jaitley and Mehbooba Mufti didn't attend today's meeting.