Union Home Ministry invites civil society leaders from Leh and Kargil for talks

The civil society leaders have been demanding Statehood for Ladakh, inclusion in the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution, and one Parliamentary seat each for Leh and Kargil

November 25, 2023 08:04 pm | Updated November 26, 2023 08:43 am IST - NEW DELHI

Artists wearing traditional dresses perform a cultural dance during a civic reception. Several political groups have been demanding that land, employment, and the cultural identity of Ladakh should be protected under the Sixth Schedule.

Artists wearing traditional dresses perform a cultural dance during a civic reception. Several political groups have been demanding that land, employment, and the cultural identity of Ladakh should be protected under the Sixth Schedule. | Photo Credit: ANI

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has invited civil society leaders from Leh and Kargil to hold discussions on December 4. The reach out comes amid frequent protests in Ladakh demanding Statehood as well as demands to provide Constitutional safeguards for the Union Territory.

Earlier an MHA constituted high-powered committee chaired by Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai to “ensure protection of land and employment” for the people of Ladakh was rejected by the leaders of both Leh and Kargil.

This time, the Leh Apex Body (LAB) and the Kargil Democratic Alliance (KDA) have chosen seven members each from their respective regions to present their demands before the Centre.

Chering Dorjay Lakrook, one of the members of the LAB who resigned from the Bharatiya Janata Party in 2020, said they would continue pressing forth their four demands at the meeting.

Their demands are Statehood for Ladakh, the inclusion of Ladakh in the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution, reservation in jobs for locals, and one Parliamentary seat each for Leh and Kargil.

Mr. Lakrook said, “Earlier the members of the committee were selected by the government. It was not acceptable to us. The agenda of the December 4 meeting is clear, we will not climb down on our four demands. If they do not agree, there may be a deadlock.”

Sajjad Kargili of KDA said the last meeting with MHA was held in June and for the next meeting the Chief Executive Councillor of Leh and Kargil will also be present. He said no agenda has been shared with them yet.

“We welcome and ready for dialogue with open heart and mind. On December 4th, the people of #Ladakh will reiterate four crucial demands: Statehood, Sixth Schedule, job reservations and PSC, and representation in parliament for both #Kargil and #Leh,” Mr. Kargili posted on X, formerly Twitter.

On August 5, 2019, the former State of Jammu and Kashmir was bifurcated into two Union Territories - J&K and Ladakh - the latter without a Legislative Assembly. Since the removal of its special status, several political groups have been demanding that land, employment, and the cultural identity of Ladakh should be protected under the Sixth Schedule, an article of the Constitution that protects tribal populations through creation of autonomous development councils which can frame laws on land, public health, agriculture. As of now ten autonomous councils exist in tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs tabled a report before the Rajya Sabha in 2022 which said that as per census 2011, the tribal population in Ladakh is 2,18,355 which is 79.61% of the total population of 2,74,289.

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