Ladakh Parties Clash Over UT Demand

22 December 2009
Rising Kashmir
Shabir Dar

Srinagar: Even as the Telangana issue has prompted the Ladakh parties to reiterate their demand for Union Territory status, the main political voices in the Buddhist-dominated district are locking horns over whether Kashmir issue or Ladakh should take precedence. While the Union Territory Front - the main political advocate of UT status to Ladakh region - views Telangana as an opportunity to see their long-pending demand fulfilled, Congress' Leh unit strongly rules out any link with Telangana, saying Ladakh can demand UT status only after Kashmir issue is resolved. “Ladakh’s demand for UT status has nothing to do with Telangana issue. Raising such a demand at this time is to fall in the hands of communal forces, who want to divide the State on communal lines. We should first demand the resolution of Kashmir issue; after that our demand for separate State can be justified,” said Congress district president for Leh, P Namgyal. Castigating the UTF for ignoring the Kashmir issue, which is there from past 60 years, Namgyal said within the Indian Constitution Kashmir has to be solved first. “Telangana is totally different from the Kashmir issue. Ironically, some people in Leh are running the agenda of RSS and BJP. I appeal them to demand the solution of Kashmir issue first before going for UT demand,” he reiterated. Namgyal's comments assume importance as the UTF is holding protest demonstrations both in Leh and New Delhi to press for their demand. A complete shutdown was observed in Leh Tuesday in support of UTF’s demand. The UTF leaders, on the other hand, maintain they cannot afford to wait for the Kashmir issue to be resolved first. “Who will hear our demand once the Kashmir issue is solved? This is the right time for us to voice our demand. We cannot wait,” said UTF president Thupstun Chewang. Another UTF leader, who is also the Chief Executive Councillor of Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council, Chering Dorjey said that no leader in Kashmir is their (Leh people's) leader. “Jora and Namgyal are winning elections on our support by doing lip-service on UT demand. Now, at this juncture, they are in support of resolution of Kashmir issue,” he said. Dorjey maintained that as Telangana issue is very hot, Ladakh’s UT status demand can be heard 'passionately'. Ladakh, as per Dorjey, was independent till 1836 until it was annexed by the Dogras. However, the UTF has been raising the UT demand since 1947.