Kargil-based political leaders and religious heads on Monday demanded legislative and executive powers to the natives of Ladakh.
The demand came following central government showing "willingness" to engage with the representatives from Kargil and Leh to chalk out a mechanism for "safeguarding the interests of Ladakhis".
Political leader, Asgar Ali Karbalai while hailing centre's willingness to engage with representatives from Kargil, said that it was for the first time that the centre told "Leh leadership" that there was "also Ladakh without you".
Karbalali, who also headed LAHDC Kargil, said that unless there was representation from Kargil, "no talks can be there".
He said since the matter of abrogation of J&K's special status was sub-judice and "the central government wants empowerment of Ladakhi people, it should entrust legislative and executive powers to the native people so that they themselves have the decision making powers".
"Our stand is clear from day one that UT is not our demand. We were not in favour of division of state or abrogation of Article 370 or Article 35-A . . . If Ladakh has to be empowered or it has to see development, small things won't do. Legislation and executive powers must be given to Ladakhis," he said.
He said that Ladakh with a population of three lakh and area of 60 thousand kilometres could be granted statehood, similar to Sikkim which has a population of six lakh and area of only eight thousand kilometres.
"We will talk with Center to empower ourselves, not to empower bureaucracy," he said.
Veteran politician and runner-up in last parliamentary elections, Sajad Kargili said: "They are taking about safeguards under sixth schedule; all those safeguards were already there under Article 35-A for us. Why was it abrogated first?"
He said that aspirations of Kargil people were not taken into account when August 5, 2019 decisions were taken.
Head of religious seminary, Jamiat ul Ulema Isna Asharia Kargil, Sheikh Nazir Mehdi said people of Kargil had presented a 14-point charter of demands to the government last year which included protection of land and job rights, airport, construction of Zojila tunnel and reservations in educational institutions.
"No demand has been met until now. Nothing would be acceptable until and unless our demands are met," said Mehdi.
Head of Imam Khomeni Memorial Trust, Sheikh Mohammad Sadiq Rajai said that people of Kargil have not accepted the UT status, which has been "rather imposed on them" and it is for the central government to engage with the Kargil representatives in an "honest" way.
"It should not be the centre telling us things, instead it should listen to us. Then, accordingly there can be agreements and disagreements on certain things. We have to take issues of public into consideration while talking with the centre," said Rajai.
On "offer" of safeguards provided under sixth schedule, he said it was to be seen if sixth schedule was acceptable. "We have to see as to what will be its disadvantages for the future generations."
w"Whatever can be good for Leh cannot be equally good for Kargil? The decision has to be taken by public collectively with all religious and political organisations of Kargil," he said.