Ladakh Residents March in Protest Demanding Statehood
The Leh Apex Body and the Kargil Democratic Alliance protest in Kargil on Wednesday demanding statehood for Ladakh.
Srinagar: Hundreds of Leh residents marched in protest on Wednesday demanding statehood and recognition under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution. Similar protests were held in other parts of the Union Territory (UT), which was carved out of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) following the passage of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019.
The protest was called by the Leh Apex Body, an alliance formed of social, political and religious bodies from Buddhist, Christian and Muslim communities in 2020. The Kargil Democratic Alliance (KDA) also protested in the Kargil Division demanding similar rights.
The two associations have formed a coalition for their statehood demand and resolved on October 26 to launch a long-term agitation for their four-point list of demands.
The demands include statehood for Ladakh, constitutional safeguards on the lines of the Sixth Schedule (which grants autonomy to tribal communities), additional Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha seats for Ladakh to “strengthen the representation and participation” in the democratic process and early recruitment to end the employment crisis.
The protesters raised slogans and carried banners that listed the four demands, which were first raised after Ladakhis lost reservation over land and jobs with the abrogation of Article 370 on August 5, 2019.
Wednesday’s protest rallies are being seen as the beginning of what the representative bodies are saying will be a “sustained agitation” likely to continue for the next whole year until the demands are met.
The associations have created a road map that will be followed, according to a social activist privy to the developments, by locals willing to go on strikes, hunger strikes and similar rallies. The road map is yet to be made public.
Prominent Ladakh activist Jigmat Paljor said that the protest was also held because of the standstill following the dialogue initiated by the Union home ministry last year to address the issues of Ladakhis.
“There has been a big delay and the dialogue did not proceed. Today’s protest is significant and also sends a message that the dialogue should resume and a discussion be held to fulfil the demands,” Paljor told Newsclick.
This was the first major protest since the complete shutdown observed in the region last December. The development comes exactly three years after the region was declared a UT.
Initially, many residents had welcomed the Act due to their long-pending demand for a UT status. However, they soon felt vulnerable after losing their exclusive rights over land and jobs. Kargil residents have vociferously opposed the Act, which, they believe, has disempowered them and their representation in political affairs.
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