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Tense LAC makes Ladakhi team call off election boycott

Union Ministers Kiren Rijiju (centre) and G. Kishan Reddy (second from right) address a press conference with Ladakhi leaders on September 27, 2020.   | Photo Credit: PTI

A delegation from Ladakh of former BJP ministers and parliamentarians, said on Sunday that they were withdrawing their call for a boycott of the upcoming elections to district autonomous councils in wake of the lurking danger at China border, adding that they could not let “non-tribals” exploit the newly created Union Territory.

Sticking to their demand for inclusion of Ladakh in the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution, former BJP MP Thupstan Chhewang said a year after the creation of the Union Territory, the youth were dissatisfied and not a single recruitment has been done by the administration. He however, added that their demands have been partially met.

Also read | Leh’s People’s Movement to boycott council elections

The delegation decided to call off the boycott on an assurance from the Centre that “Government of India is open to discuss protection available under the Sixth Schedule... while looking into issues related to Ladakhi people.”

Union Sports minister Kiren Rijiju, who met the delegation including Skyabje Thiksey Khampo Rinpochey, the head of the Thiksay monastery in Ladakh, said on Sunday, “The delegation was assured that all issues related to language, demography, ethnicity, land and jobs will be considered positively/ taken care of.”

“A dialogue between a larger Ladakhi delegation comprising of representatives from Leh and Kargil Districts under the aegis of Peoples Movement for Constitutional safeguard under Sixth Schedule and Union Home Ministry would commence after 15 days of the culmination of LAHDC, Leh elections. Any decision reached in this connection would be in consultation with the representatives from Leh and Kargil,” Mr. Rijiju said at a press conference along with members of the delegation.

Union Minister of State for Home G. Kishan Reddy will be travelling to Leh on Monday to meet the other Ladakhi leaders.

Also read | Ladakh team visits Meghalaya to study Sixth Schedule

“In Ladakh, 97% people are tribals. Our population is 3 lakh and there is lot of barren land. If we are not given protection then in next ten years we will be a minority. We are tribals, we are weaker sections and non-tribals exploit us, this is why in Northeast a non-tribal cannot buy or sell land,” said Chering Dorjay Lakrook, former minister and president of the BJP’s Ladakh unit.

When asked if the assurances were similar to that provided to undivided J&K under Article 370 of the Constitution that was read down last year, Mr. Rijiju said, “do not bring Kashmir into this.” He earlier said the autonomous councils in northeast existed within the State. The delegation had met Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Saturday.

 

The Sixth Schedule protects tribal populations and provides autonomy to the communities through creation of autonomous development councils which can frame laws on land, public health, agriculture etc. As of now ten autonomous councils exist in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram.

Also read | Ladakh council moves resolution seeking safeguards

The People’s Movement, a group comprising all political parties and the influential Buddhist Association had announced earlier this week that none will file nominations for the October 16 council elections.

Mr. Chhewang said that since 1947, the people of Ladakh have protected India’s border and during the ongoing standoff with the China at Ladakh, it was the locals who supplied essential items to the Army at difficult altitude.

“We are not demanding a price for what we have done for India all these years... We fear that Ladakhi youth should not go in a direction like that in Kashmir. When we were part of J&K, we had protection under Article 35A and 370 of the constitution. If Sixth Schedule is implemented it will give us protection under the constitution,” Mr. Chhewang said, adding that they will reconsider future course of action if Centre did not act on its words.

Also read | National Commission for Scheduled Tribes recommends ‘tribal area’ status for Ladakh

Ladakh has two councils — LAHDC- Leh and Kargil to govern micro issues.

“We were assured that the autonomous councils in the UT will be empowered ...The basic law to be implemented after amending the provisions was not done, the power of the councils was curtailed... Earlier they could appoint people in provincial and divisional cadre posts, not a single appointment has taken place,” Mr. Chhewang said.

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Printable version | Oct 29, 2020 7:55:16 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/govt-open-to-discuss-protection-available-under-sixth-schedule-to-ladakh-rijiju/article32707344.ece

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