After achieving UT Status, Ladakh now united over Statehood demand

RATTAN SHARMA

JAMMU : Three years  after  getting their demand of UT Status fulfilled, Ladakhis including the people of twin districts of Leh and Kargil, are now united over the demand for Statehood for Ladakh and constitutional safeguards for its people under Sixth Schedule.

Pertinently UT was the demand of Ladakhis for past several years which was fulfilled by the Union Government on August 5, 2019. The government had made Ladakh region a separate Union Territory without Legislature and initially people of Ladakh welcomed the decision, celebrating it as freedom from the hegemony of Kashmir.

The creation of Ladakh as a Union Territory separate from Jammu and Kashmir had been fulfillment of a long-standing demand by people of Leh. Three years later, they are now seeking statehood as well as extension of the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution to Ladakh, guaranteeing it special rights.

Both Kargil and Leh districts find themselves on the same side on the demands, and have formed a joint core committee to decide their future strategy. In Leh. the statehood struggle is being led by the Leh Apex Body while in Kargil, it is led by Kargil Democratic Alliance (KDA). Most of the political parties are the components of KDA and the Apex Body of Leh, which are an alliance of religious, social and political organisations.

Both KDA and the Apex Body of Leh have appealed to the Central government to accept their demands and address their aspirations.

Though the Union Ministry of Home Affairs has constituted a High Powered Committee  under the chairmanship of Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai yet the leaders of both the Leh Apex Body and the KDA have decided to not to participate in the proposed meeting till their four-point agenda is included for discussion.

The Four-point agenda includes full-fledged Statehood for Ladakh, Constitutional safeguards under Sixth Schedule of the Constitution of India, recruitment and job reservation for the youth of UT Ladakh and creation of two separate Parliamentary constituencies for Leh and Kargil.

They also stated that members suggested by them for inclusion in the Home Ministry’s Panel have also been changed and all these four issues were missing in agenda released by the Union Home Ministry for talks though there was reference to protection of rights.

Agenda released by the MHA along with setting up of the High Powered Committee  recently include discussion on measures to protect the region’s unique culture and language taking into consideration its geographical location and strategic importance, ensure protection of land and employment for the people of Ladakh, discuss measures for inclusive development and employment generation and measures related to empowerment of Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Councils  of Leh and Kargil.

Both the bodies have decided to intensify the agitation during 2023. They resolved that the agitation for the resolution of the four issues shall continue till genuine demands are fulfilled. They also proposed to have protest rally at Jammu on the January 15 followed by Dharna protest at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on 3rd week of February.

As per the MHA order, the High Powered Committee  headed by Union Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai as Chairman will have Radha Krishna Mathur, Lieutenant Governor of Ladakh, Jamyang Tsering Namgyal, MP Ladakh, Chairpersons-cum-CECs of LAHDC Leh and Kargil, Joint Secretary, Department of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh Affairs in MHA, Director/ Deputy Secretary (Ladakh), Department of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh Affairs, MHA as Member Secretary and one nominated member from MHA.

The HPC will also have five members of Leh Apex Body and four from KDA.

Both Leh Apex Body and KDA resolved that the government should include all the names as proposed by them in the year 2021 as per Home Ministry’s instruction, which include panel of the Apex Body Thiksey Rinpochhe, Thupstan Chhewang  (Ex Member of Parliament of Ladakh), Tsering Dorjey Lakruk, Acharya Stanzin Wangtak (President LGA Leh), Nawang Rigzin Jora (Ex Minister), Ashraf Ali Barcha (President Anjuman Imamia) and Dr Abdul Qayum (President Anjuman Moin-ul-Islam) while Members of the Kargil Democratic Alliance include Qamar Ali Akhone (Ex-Minister), Asgar Ali Karbalai (Ex MLA), Sajjad Hussain Kargili (Representative Jamiat Ulema Isna Asharia), Shiekh Bashir Shakir (Vice Chairman IKMT Kargil), Agha Syed Ahmad Rizvi (Anjuman Sahab Zaman), Agha Syed Mohammad Shah (Anjuman Noorbakshia), Haji Ghulam Nabi Var (Anjuman e Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamat), Skarma Dadul (Ladakh Buddhist Association Kargil).

It is pertinent to mention that on August 29, 2021, Union Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai had met the joint delegation of Leh Apex Body and Kargil Democratic Alliance during his visit to Leh in which he had assured that a Committee would be set up by the Home Ministry for talks with the two bodies of Leh and Kargil.

On 2 November 2022, both the Bodies asked the Central government to accept their four demands including statehood to Ladakh, two Parliament seats, two Rajya Sabha seats and protection of their rights under the sixth schedule of Constitution.