Kargil | Raking up the border issue, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Friday said every individual in Ladakh knows that China has "taken away our land" and claimed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi's assertion that not an inch of land was taken away was “absolutely false”.
The former Congress president's remarks come after Prime Minister Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping held a conversation on Wednesday on the sidelines of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) summit in Johannesburg. The conversation was not a structured bilateral meeting and was an informal one.
“I visited the whole of Ladakh on my motorcycle over the past week...Ladakh is a strategic place and when I was at Pangong lake, one thing was clear that China had taken over thousands of kilometers of Indian land. Unfortunately, the prime minister during an opposition meeting makes a statement that not an inch of our land was taken away which is 'absolutely false'," he said addressing a public meeting here on the last day of his nine-day tour of Ladakh.
“Every individual of Ladakh knows that China has taken away our land and the prime minister is not speaking the truth,” he alleged.
This is the second time during his Ladakh tour that the Congress leader has raked up the border issue with China.
On Sunday last, Gandhi had claimed that Modi's statement that not an inch of the land in Ladakh has been taken over by China is not true.
India's Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra on Thursday said Modi conveyed to Xi India's concerns on the "unresolved" issues along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh, underlining that maintenance of peace and tranquillity in border areas was essential for normalisation of India-China ties.
The ties between India and China came under severe strain following the eastern Ladakh border row that began in May, 2020.
The Indian and Chinese troops are locked in an over three-year confrontation in certain friction points in eastern Ladakh even as the two sides completed disengagement from several areas following extensive diplomatic and military talks.
During the public meeting, Gandhi also extending support to Leh-based Apex body and Kargil Democratic Alliance (KDA), which are fighting for full statehood and safeguards under sixth schedule of the Constitution, and said his party would not allow the BJP to hand over the resource-rich land of the union territory to its corporate friend.
The former Congress president said he was briefed by the people about their demand for political representation, safeguards for land, culture and language, unemployment, non-functional Kargil airport and the problem of cell phone coverage.
“I heard you and want to convey that the Congress is standing with you in your struggle, whether linked to the demand for safeguards or employment issues. All the people know that Ladakh is rich in natural resources.The 21st century is of solar energy and Ladakh has no dearth of it," he said.
“The BJP knows and understands that if you will be given (political) representation, they cannot snatch your land," he said and alleged that the "BJP wants to take your land for (industrialist Gautam) Adani and we will not allow this to happen".
The two powerful bodies are jointly campaigning to press for their four-point demands, including full statehood, safeguards under sixth schedule of the Constitution, creation of two separate parliamentary constituencies for Leh and Kargil districts, recruitment and job reservation for the youth of Ladakh.
Both the Apex body and KDA, which is a separate amalgam of socio-religious, political and youth organisations of Leh and Kargil districts, were formed after the Centre abrogated the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcated it into Union territories of J-K and Ladakh.
The BJP Ladakh unit was also part of the Apex body but later distanced itself after it raised the demand for full statehood.
In an apparent reference to Modi's ‘Mann Ki Baat' radio broadcast, Gandhi said “Some are speaking what is in their heart but I came here to know what is in your heart. One thing is clear that the ideology of Gandhi and Congress exists in the blood and DNA of the people of Ladakh.” He said migrant labourers from different parts of the country, including Bihar, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand, told him that they feel that Ladakh is their second home as locals are lending a helping hand whenever they come forward to seek their support.
Referring to his Bharat Jodo Yatra from September 7, 2022 to January 30, 2023, he said the only goal of the foot march was to stand up against the “hatred and violence being spread by BJP and RSS” in the country and spread the message of love and brotherhood.
"The yatra was not supposed to end in Srinagar but in Ladakh. The administration did not allow us to continue the march due to harsh winter and we accepted it. My visit is in continuation of the Bharat Jodo Yatra. I visited every nook and corner of the region on the motorcycle and heard the people,” he said.
He also thanked the people of Kargil for always standing with the country during crisis and war, and said, “All the people in the country, irrespective of their religion, language and culture are equal for us and we all want to live together with love and respect.” Gandhi described Ladakh as the most beautiful region of the country and assured the people that he will raise both their local and central issues during the next Parliament session.
After his over 15-minute long address, Gandhi walked past the security cover to interact with the gathering amid chants of ‘Jodo Jodo Bharat Jodo'.
Besides the working president of Ladakh Congress Asgar Ali Karbalai, National Conference leader and co-chairman of KDA Qamar Ali Akhnoon, AICC in-charge of J-K and Ladakh Rajni Patel were present at the public rally..