Rahul raises China border issue in Ladakh, promises to be voice of people of UT in Parliament

Gandhi addressed a public meeting here on the last day of his nine-day tour of Ladakh

Rahul Gandhi (Photo: NH File photo)
Rahul Gandhi (Photo: NH File photo)


Raising the Sino-India border issue here, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Friday said everyone in Ladakh knows that China has "taken away our land" and claimed Prime Minister Narendra Modi's assertion that not an inch of land was occupied was "absolutely false".

Gandhi addressed a public meeting here on the last day of his nine-day tour of Ladakh.

He said, "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...made a statement that not an inch of our land was taken away which is absolutely false." "Every individual of Ladakh knows that China has taken away our land and the prime minister is not speaking the truth," he alleged.

The former Congress president's remarks came after Prime Minister Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping held a conversation 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.

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 standoff 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.

This is the second time during his Ladakh tour that the Congress leader has raised the border issue with China.

Last Sunday, Gandhi had claimed that Modi's statement that not an inch of the land in Ladakh had been taken over by China was not true.

Addressing the public meeting on Friday, Gandhi also extended his support to the Leh-based Apex Body and Kargil Democratic Alliance (KDA), which are fighting for full statehood and safeguards under the 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 demands 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 are given (political) representation, they cannot snatch your land," he said and alleged that the "BJP wants to take away your land to give it to (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.

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 hearts. 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." 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".

Gandhi also visited the Kargil War Memorial in Drass and paid rich tributes to the Indian Army personnel who sacrificed their lives during the 1999 war with Pakistan.

The memorial is located on the 434-km Srinagar-Leh national highway and about five km from the city centre across the Tiger Hill, Kargil.

"Kargil is not just a place, it is a saga of valour. It is the land many of our soldiers served in and resonates with their courage and sacrifice. This is the pride of India and all Indians realise their sense of responsibility towards the country. I bow to all the brave soldiers and martyrs of Kargil War," Gandhi wrote on his social media accounts.

He also shared several pictures of him paying tributes at the memorial built in Drass town to commemorate the 1999 Kargil War between India and Pakistan.

In a post on X, Gandhi also vowed to raise in Parliament the issues of the people of Ladakh as he alleged that their "political voice" was being suppressed and the promises of the central government on employment had turned out to be "false".

"I went to every corner of Ladakh and talked to the youth, mothers and sisters and the poor. There are other leaders who only talk about their 'Mann Ki Baat'. I want to listen to your 'Mann Ki Baat'," the former Congress president said in an apparent swipe at Prime Minister Modi's monthly radio broadcast. 

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Published: 25 Aug 2023, 8:24 PM