The Leh Apex Body (LAB) and Kargil Democratic Alliance (KDA), which bring together politico-religious groups from the Union Territory of Ladakh, on Tuesday extended their support to the 10-day protest fast by Sonam Wangchuk, an award-winning educationist, for the granting of Sixth Schedule status to the region.
The LAB and KDA, however, kept the door open for talks with the Centre. “We have decided to fully support the protest fast of Mr. Wangchuk for Sixth Schedule status. The members of the LAB and KDA held a detailed discussion on the events of the past six months, including protests held in Delhi and in Jammu. We are open to talks with the Government of India, whether it’s an official of the Union Home Minister or Minister of State, Home. Whenever we will be invited, our core committee will decide on the representatives and send them,” Asgar Ali Karbalai, a KDA leader, said in Kargil.
What is the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution?
Mr. Karbalia said the groups’ focus is on its four-point agenda, which includes Statehood for Ladakh; Sixth Schedule status for Ladakh; separate Lok Sabha seats for Kargil and Leh districts; and reservation of jobs for educated locals. They demanded that the ‘Ladakh Residence Certificate’ must be made mandatory for recruitment of gazetted or non-gazetted posts in Ladakh.
“There were promises made by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in the past six months but nothing has changed on ground,” Mr. Karbalai said.
Mr. Wangchuk observed a five-day fast in January this year to press for the Sixth Schedule. He has decided to do a 10-day fast from May 26 to highlight the same demand and garner support for it.
“Ladakh’s ecology should not be tempered with by industry and mining. Smoke and dust will make glaciers melt, posing a grave danger for the entire north India. I did five-day fast in January but till date, leaders from Ladakh have not been invited for talks,” Mr. Wangchuk said in a video posted online.
He said the promise of Sixth Schedule status has been a part of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) manifesto. “Reneging from the written promise is like a written cheque getting bounced at the bank counter. It’s a criminal offence. This needs to be questioned for accountability,” Mr. Wangchuk added.
Ladakh was carved out as a separate Union Territory from Jammu and Kashmir in 2019. The Centre’s move followed a series of protests by locals to safeguard their culture, ecology, land, and jobs.