The People’s Movement, a platform representing various politicians, religious and social organisations campaigning for the Sixth Schedule for Ladakh, on Tuesday announced a boycott of the upcoming elections to the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council-Leh, scheduled for October 16.
Announcing the decision at a press conference in Leh, former BJP leader Thupstan Chhewang, who is a member of the group, said, “We have decided not to participate in the LAHDC-Leh polls. No party will file any nomination as part of the boycott. Unless the Sixth Schedule is granted to Ladakh, and LAHDC-Leh and Kargil are granted councils on the lines of the Bodo council [Bodo Territorial Council], we will not allow such polls.”
The People’s Movement has the backing of most of the regional parties in Leh, including the influential Ladakh Buddhist Association. The announcement comes weeks after the BJP supported timely elections to the LAHDC-Leh, which will complete its term in October.
The group’s resolution was also signed by former Rajya Sabha Member Skyabje Thiksey Khampo Rinpochey, former Minister Chhering Dorje Lakrook, former Minister and president of Ladakh Congress Nawang Rigzin Jora, district president of BJP Nawang Samstan and convener of Aam Aadmi Party, Leh, T. Phustsog.
The All Ladakh Gompa Association, Anjuman Immamia Ashraf Ali Barcha, Anjuman Moin-ul-Islam and Christian Community have also supported the boycott call.
Rigzin Spalbar, former chairman of the LAHDC-Leh, said in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic it was expected that the elections to constitute the 6th LAHDC-Leh would be postponed. “Besides the pandemic, the entire Ladakh is in a state of uncertainty over the preservation of its unique tribal identity, habitats and ecosystem. The elections to LAHDC-Leh, without extending the relevant provisions of the Sixth Schedule of our Constitution, which empowers the councils by vesting it with legislative powers, is meaningless,” he said.
Ladakh was carved out as a Union Territory on August 5 last year, but it is without a legislature. Instead, two councils — LAHDC-Leh and LAHDC-Kargil — have been allowed to govern micro issues.
“The democratically elected council, representing the popular will of the people of Ladakh, cannot continue to be a toothless and irrelevant ostentatious body like it was made to be in the wake of the formation of UT Ladakh,” Mr. Spalbar said.
However, Kargil is yet to support the demand for the Sixth Schedule. “We have always been demanding restoration of statehood. Kargil will not support Leh’s demand,” said Sajjad Kargili, a local leader who contested the previous general election.