A day after the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) constituted a high-powered committee to “ensure protection of land and employment” for the people of Ladakh, at least two members of the committee told The Hindu that the notification is vague and does not address their demand for inclusion under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.
One of the members, who did not wish to be identified, said the announcement was not up to expectations and avoids any mention of the inclusion of the Union Territory under the Sixth Schedule, a provision that entails constitutional safeguards for tribal areas.
The committee’s announcement comes days before Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra is expected to reach Jammu & Kashmir on January 20.
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Before the MHA notified the committee on January 2, the influential Apex Body for Leh, and the Kargil Democratic Alliance (KDA), was scheduled to meet in Jammu on January 7, which would have been followed by a protest and a meeting with all political leaders. A member said the meeting would take place as planned to discuss the future course of action on the role and scope of committee.
The 17-member committee that’s headed by Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai and includes Ladakh Lieutenant-Governor R.K. Mathur, draws members from the Ladakh Buddhist Association (LBA); Anjuman-e-Imamia, a Shia body; and the KDA, among others. It does not have any representation from the Sunni Muslim community.
Sajjad Kargili, a social activist and member of the high-powered committee, told The Hindu that the Union government has realised there is resentment in Ladakh. “The committee has been announced as the government acknowledges that people are unhappy due to lack of people’s representation in decision-making, and absence of safeguards for locals. The list of names in the committee is not satisfactory as the Sunni Muslim representative is not included,” Mr. Kargili said.
Mr. Kargili, who is also a member of the KDA, added that they would stick to their four demands, which includes restoration of Statehood for Ladakh and the “hope that the government listens” and gives them their “rights at the earliest”.
According to the Census 2011, the total population of Ladakh was 2,74,289, and nearly 80% are tribals. The Union Territory has a majority Buddhist population, with a sizeable Muslim population in Kargil.
The Apex Body for Leh (a group comprising political, religious and civil society groups in Ladakh), the LBA, and the KDA, have been demanding Statehood for Ladakh.
The LBA said in a statement on Tuesday that it strongly objects to the inclusion of Tsewang Norboo in the committee as he is not the president of LBA-Kargil, as mentioned in the MHA’s order.
An order by MHA said the committee will “discuss measures to protect the region’s unique culture and language taking into consideration its geographical location and its strategic importance”; measures for inclusive development and employment generation; and issues related to empowerment of Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Councils (LAHDC) of Leh and Kargil.
The LAHDC said in a tweet that Tashi Gyalson, Chief Executive Councillor “expressed gratitude” to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah for constituting the committee to review Ladakh’s issues. Mr. Gyalson represents the BJP in the council.
On August 5, 2019, the special status of former State of Jammu & Kashmir under Article 370 was revoked by the Parliament, and the State was bifurcated into two Union Territories — J&K and Ladakh, the latter without a Legislative Assembly.