Centre agrees to examine measures to ensure ‘constitutional safeguards’ for Ladakh 

Earlier in January, an MHA constituted committee to “ensure protection of land and employment” for the people of Ladakh was rejected by the civil society leaders

November 30, 2023 10:13 pm | Updated December 01, 2023 01:54 am IST - NEW DELHI

Students demand separate statehood for Ladakh and inclusion of the Union Territory (UT) in the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution, at Jantar Mantar, in New Delhi. File

Students demand separate statehood for Ladakh and inclusion of the Union Territory (UT) in the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution, at Jantar Mantar, in New Delhi. File | Photo Credit: ANI

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has agreed to examine the demand of civil society groups in Ladakh to provide “constitutional safeguards” for the Union Territory, according to an order issued on Thursday.

Several civil society organisations and political leaders have been demanding constitutional safeguards such as Ladakh’s inclusion in the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution, granting the UT a tribal status to protect its land and culture.

The key detail is mentioned in an order issued by the MHA on Thursday to re-constitute a high powered committee (HPC) for the UT of Ladakh.

The 22-member committee, chaired by Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai, will have representatives from both Kargil and Leh divisions. Lieutenant Governor B.D. Mishra is also part of the panel that is expected to hold its first meeting in Delhi on December 4.

Earlier in January, an MHA constituted committee chaired by Mr. Rai to “ensure protection of land and employment” for the people of Ladakh was rejected by the leaders of both the regions.

The terms of reference of the newly constituted committee are: discuss measures to protect the region’s unique culture and language taking into consideration its geographical location and strategic importance; to ensure protection of land and employment for the people of Ladakh; to discuss measures for inclusive development and employment generation in the region, to discuss measures related to the empowerment of the Ladakh Autonomous Hill District Councils of Leh and Kargil and to examine constitutional safeguards that could be provided to ensure the measures and protection detailed above.

The Leh Apex Body, which has the patronage of the influential Ladakh Buddhist Association and the Kargil Democratic Alliance, the two main groups have been pressing forth four demands - Statehood for Ladakh, inclusion of Ladakh in the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution, job reservation for locals and one parliamentary seat each for Leh and Kargil. The members are going to reiterate their demands during December 4 meeting, one of the representatives said.

The UT with a population of 2.74 lakh (2011 Census) has erupted in protests several times in the past four years amid concerns around protection of land, resources and employment for the locals. After the special status of the erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 of the Constitution was read down by Parliament on August 5, 2019, J&K was bifurcated into two union territories - J&K and Ladakh - the latter without a legislative assembly.

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