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Ladakh Observes Shutdown, Demands Statehood

Anees Zargar |
Many are terming the shutdown as a “significant” development, something that involves both divisions of Leh as well as Kargil, and may trigger a larger movement against the government

Image Courtesy: NDTV

Srinagar: People in the union territory of Ladakh are observing a shutdown called by prominent socio-political and religious bodies against what they termed as a “failure” of the authorities to safeguard the rights of people in the region.

All shops, business establishments and their offices remained shut in the Himalayan region while transport services were also disrupted in the wake of the strike call given by the People’s Movement for 6th Schedule for Ladakh and Kargil Democratic Alliance (KDA).

The two groups – an amalgam of social, political and religious bodies including the transporters tourist operators, hotel and restaurant associations, tour operators, and taxi operators – have made various demands for the constitutional safeguard of land and jobs for the people of the region. The bodies called for the strike despite assurances from New Delhi after initial negotiations, however, said that no concrete steps have been initiated so far to address the issues.

The shutdown call was earlier announced in November for December 6 but, was later withdrawn following which a fresh date was announced by the group leadership.

The demands include full-fledged statehood for the Ladakh region, which was carved out from the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir on August 5, 2019, as the BJP-led government abrogated Article 370 and 35A in the region. The representative bodies are since seeking a constitutional safeguard on the lines of the 6th schedule, which grants autonomy to tribal communities. They are also demanding additional Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha seats for Ladakh, the groups say, to strengthen the representation and participation in democratic processes and early advertisement for every recruitment process in the UT.

“The government addressed the issues of farmers by repealing the laws and we welcome it. We want the government to address the issues of the people of Ladakh as well. The people here have stood with the country since 1947 and defended the national interest. The time has come to empower the people from Ladakh and the government should consider their issues with a free mind and support them,” a political activist Sajjad Kargili told NewsClick.

The apex body in Leh was formed last year by as many as 12 organisational heads which consisted of both Buddhist, Christain and Muslim bodies and the leaders from BJP, after raising concerns in the region in the aftermath of abrogation of Article 370 and 35A about jobs, land and other rights. The people in Leh had earlier supported the move even as people in Kargil opposed it but later felt they had become vulnerable to fears of an unprecedented outside influx.

The concerns of locals multiplied after a fresh conflict broke out between India and China along Eastern Ladakh which resulted in the deaths of soldiers on both sides of the Line of Actual Control (LAC). Even as the external fears seemingly have no bearing on Monday’s shutdown but the people in the region are facing immense pressure due to the rising fears both along the borders and in the hinterlands especially in the aftermath of the abrogation of Article 370.

Many are terming the shutdown as a “significant” development something that involves both divisions of Leh as well as Kargil and might trigger a larger movement against the government for the first time here in case the demands of constitutional safeguards are not met.

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