Meeting Between Ladakhi Leader And Mirwaiz In Srinagar Causes Storm In Leh

The BJP is questioning why Kargili would discuss Ladakh with the separatist leader and suggesting that it might be an attempt to derail ongoing talks between the government and Ladakhi leaders

Sajad Kargili of the Kargil Democratic Alliance with Kashmiri Leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq Photo: @jtnladakh/X

It was far from an ordinary meeting when Ladakhi leader Sajad Kargili sat down with Hurriyat Conference leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq in Srinagar.

Kargili raised concerns about the restrictions imposed on the historic Jamia Masjid in Srinagar. He went further and informed Mirwaiz that the 'artificial' boundaries drawn between Ladakh and Jammu & Kashmir after the abrogation of Article 370 would not sever the region's deep-rooted historical and cultural ties. Adding fuel to the controversy, Kargili asserted that if Ladakh is not granted statehood or included under the Sixth Schedule, it should reunite with Jammu & Kashmir. This meeting has stirred significant debate within Ladakh.

The BJP surfaced for the first time after its defeat in the Lok Sabha polls is now questioning, why Kargili would discuss Ladakh with the separatist leader and suggesting it might be an attempt to derail ongoing talks between the government and Ladakhi leaders.

In his briefing, BJP spokesperson PT Kunzang says, "Kargili, a core group member of the Kargil Democratic Alliance, recently met Hurriyat Conference separatist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq," Kunzang said. "Initially, they said it was a courtesy call given Eid Mubarak, which we have no objection to. However, we are yet to understand why Sajad Kargili discussed Ladakh issues with Umar Farooq."

Kunzang said Ladakh has been a separate Union Territory, distinct from Jammu and Kashmir since August 5, 2019. "Issues of Jammu and Kashmir should be addressed by its leaders. What does a Kargil leader have to do with it?" he said. "Why drag Ladakh into this? We have our own issues. But will the Hurriyat Conference and separatist leaders decide on it?" he asked.

Unperturbed with criticism Kargili told Outlook that he discussed the issues surrounding the grand mosque, Jamia Masjid Srinagar, in the meeting. "We talked about the frequent restrictions imposed on entry to Jamia Masjid, the denial of permission for prayers, and its indefinite closure. I expressed my concerns about this," he said.

In recent years, the historic Jamia Masjid in Srinagar has faced intermittent restrictions on prayers, often without any explanation from the authorities. There have been instances where Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, the chief cleric of Kashmir, has been denied permission to lead prayers, and on other occasions, worshippers at times have been prevented from offering prayers altogether.

The timing of the meeting just after Eid has amplified its importance. Local authorities, continuing a trend of the past six years, denied permission for Eid prayers at Jamia Masjid. The Anjuman Auqaf Jamia Masjid, the custodian of the 14th-century mosque, said in its Eid day statement, "After Fajr prayers today, police closed the gates and informed us that Eid prayers scheduled for 9:00 am would not be allowed."

Kargili says apart from religious issues, he also discussed the present situation in Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh. "I talked about the four-point agenda of Ladakh and mentioned that people in Kargil were not happy with the abrogation of Article 370 or the bifurcation of the state."

"Our people still want that if Ladakh is not given Sixth Schedule status or statehood, then the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir should be restored. At least we should get our state," he added.

"I also told Mirwaiz that the artificial lines created between J&K and Ladakh are not accepted by us. We have centuries-old history and relations, and nothing can separate us," the KDA leader said.

The BJP smells a conspiracy behind the meeting and the talks.

"We want to ask Asgar Ali Karbali and Qamar Ali Akhoon, chairpersons of the Kargil Democratic Alliance, what their core group member- Kargili- is doing with the Hurriyat. What is the secret agenda behind it?" Kunzang said. "One moment, you form a coordination committee with the Leh Apex Body and the Kargil Democratic Alliance, holding talks with the Government of India, and the next, you meet with separatists who seek independence. Is this meeting an attempt to derail Ladakh leaders' talks with the government?"

Soon after the abrogation of Article 370, Leh celebrated the decision. However, a year following the repeal of Article 370, the political events in Leh underwent dramatic changes with the formation of the Apex Body of Leh, a grouping of various political and religious parties of Leh headed by former MP Thupstan Chhewang. The Leh Apex Body started advocating for constitutional safeguards to protect the local population, seeking the implementation of the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.

Later, on September 3, 2021, the BJP-led LAHDC Leh passed a resolution urging for safeguards either under Article 371 of the Constitution of India, the Sixth Schedule, or domicile laws to uphold the tribal rights of the indigenous people of Ladakh.


However, Kargil has consistently opposed the abrogation of Article 370 and the division of the erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir. In fact Sajad Kargili, Qamar Ali Akhoon and Karbali were among the initial petitioners challenging abrogation of Article 370 before the Apex Court.

In January 2023, the Kargil Democratic Alliance, established in 2020, joined forces with the Leh Apex Body to articulate a four-point demand. These demands include statehood for Ladakh, constitutional protections under the Sixth Schedule, the establishment of a Public Service Commission, and the creation of two distinct parliamentary constituencies for Leh and Kargil.

On February 19, 2024, a Ministry of Home Affairs sub-committee held a meeting in New Delhi with Ladakh leaders on issues including the Sixth Schedule. On April 13 of this year, Ladakhi innovator Sonam Wangchuk claimed that Union Home Minister Amit Shah had informed Ladakh leaders during a March 4 meeting in New Delhi that the prospects of Ladakh obtaining Sixth Schedule status or statehood were bleak. However, following the March 4 meeting, no further discussions took place between the Ladakhi leaders and the GoI. In response, Wangchuk initiated a 21-day climate fast as a form of protest, which has since taken various forms.


In this year's parliamentary polls, an independent candidate Haji Hanifa Jan won the Ladakh Lok Sabha seat, defeating Congress’s Tsering Namgyal. Tashi Gyalson of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) finished third.

"Despite not having an MP from the region, we will continue working for Ladakh's development and addressing pending issues with the NDA government including safeguards," Kunzang concluded. "We expect good results very soon."

Kunzang, however, said Ladakh issues should be resolved by Ladakhi leaders, whether from the Leh Apex Body, KDA, BJP, Congress, or AAP. "We need clarification from Qamar Ali Akhoon and Asgar Ali Karbali. I also want to hear from Leh Apex Body chairman Thupstan Chhewang about the reason for Kargili's meeting with Umar Farooq."


"I have always seen Sajad Kargili speak about Ladakh and Ladakh. Ladakh means both Leh and Kargil,” he added. The BJP spokesman said Kargili has stated that if statehood is not granted to Ladakh, it should be merged back with Jammu and Kashmir. “This is not our demand. We have attained Union Territory status after a 70-year struggle. Yes, we have issues regarding safeguards, and talks are ongoing. We expect positive results."