Ladakh Protests for Statehood: Demands, Dialogue, and Determination

Ladakh 7 Feb: In Ladakh, a massive protest rally unfolded in the Leh district on Saturday, as locals observed a complete shutdown to advocate for their four primary demands. The protest was organized by the Leh Apex Body (LAB) and Kargil Democratic Alliance (KDA), who are fervently pushing for statehood for Ladakh and its inclusion under the sixth schedule of the Constitution, which would grant it tribal status. Moreover, they are calling for job reservation for locals and the allocation of a parliamentary seat each for Leh and Kargil.

The shutdown, which brought life in the region to a standstill, saw thousands of residents taking to the streets, brandishing placards and chanting slogans to express their demands. Haji Ghulam Mustafa, the legal adviser of the Leh Apex Body and Kargil Democratic Alliance, voiced concerns over the weakening of Ladakh’s powers since its transition into a Union Territory.

He highlighted the stark contrast in representation, noting that while Ladakh had four members in the assembly and two in the legislative council when it was part of Jammu and Kashmir, it now lacks any representation in the assembly. Mustafa emphasized that Ladakh’s strategic significance warranted statehood and adequate representation in the political arena.

Amidst these developments, a high-level committee, led by Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai, has been engaging in discussions with representatives from Leh and Kargil. The ministry has sought a comprehensive list of demands from the two bodies to address the grievances of the Ladakhi people.

The memorandum submitted by the representatives underscores Ladakh’s unique position, as it remains a Union Territory while the possibility of statehood restoration looms over Jammu and Kashmir. Drawing parallels with states in the northeast like Mizoram, Tripura, and Sikkim, the memorandum advocates for similar treatment for Ladakh, including protection under the Sixth Schedule and Article 371 of the Constitution.

The demand for Sixth Schedule status is particularly significant, given the substantial tribal population in Ladakh, comprising communities such as Balti, Beda, Bot, Boto, Brokpa, Drokpa, Dard, Shin, Changpa, Garra, Mon, and Purigpa. These communities play a vital role in the cultural fabric of Ladakh, and their rights and heritage must be safeguarded.

Additionally, the memorandum calls for the establishment of a Ladakh Public Service Commission to address the limited job opportunities for local residents. It highlights the necessity of creating avenues for employment, especially in gazetted positions, to ensure equitable development and prosperity for the people of Ladakh.

Furthermore, the memorandum includes a draft bill for amending The Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act 2019. This proposed amendment seeks to secure parliamentary representation for Ladakh, with provisions for two Members of Parliament, one each from Leh and Kargil. Additionally, there is optimism that Ladakh will secure a seat in the Rajya Sabha, aligning with the model adopted by states like Sikkim.

The transition of Ladakh into a Union Territory without a legislature occurred concurrently with the abrogation of Article 370 and 35A on August 5, 2019. This monumental shift reshaped the political landscape of the region, prompting renewed calls for empowerment and representation from its residents.

As the protests persist and dialogue between the stakeholders continues, the spotlight remains firmly fixed on Ladakh’s quest for statehood, political autonomy, and socio-economic development. The aspirations of the Ladakhi people for equitable representation and opportunities resonate loudly, underscoring the need for decisive action from the authorities to address their concerns

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