Weighing in on the Indian government’s controversial decision to repeal Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe appeared to cautiously welcome the Ladakh region, with its significantly high Buddhist population, being granted Union Territory status.
“I understand Ladakh will finally become an Indian State. Buddhists are 70% of Ladakh’s population and it will be the first Indian state with a Buddhist majority,” Advisor to the Ministry of National Policies & Economic Affairs Sudarshana Gunawardana quoted him as saying.
However, Wickremesinghe stopped short of an official endorsement of the Bharathiya Janatha Party (BJP) Government’s decision.
“The creation of Ladakh and the consequential restructuring are India’s internal matters,” he said.
“I have been to Ladakh and it is really worth a visit,” he added.
According to a 2011 census, however, only 66.4% of Ladakh’s Leh district is Buddhist, while its other district Kargil has a 78.6% Muslim population.
The Narendra Modi Government on Monday (5) abolished the special status granted to the India-administered Kashmir through a presidential decree abolishing Article 370 of the Indian Constitution which had until then given limited autonomy to the Muslim-majority region.
The decision will split the disputed border state to two Union Territories: Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh. The latter is to be ruled directly by the central government without a legislature of its own.
The decision to repeal Article 370 has been met with widespread criticism, both in India and abroad.