Thousands of people from Ladakh participated in a rally on Wednesday led by Ladakh Buddhist Association (LBA), seeking constitutional safeguard to protect the interests of the people from newly formed union territory. Locals from far-flung areas, from almost every household, reportedly participated in the rally.
It has been six months since the special status of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir was revoked and the state was downgraded to a union territory.
A memorandum, compiled by the religious and political leaders, was presented to the advisor to LG Ladakh, Umang Narula, with demands addressed to PM Modi. The memorandum said, “The reaction after the granting of the Union Territory status to Ladakh, has been both joyous as well as has been creating doubts, apprehensions and anxiety among general public with respect to administrative arrangements and various other provisions. They are concerned about safeguarding genuine rights and interests of the people. The hopes, aspirations and apprehensions concerning various issues and strategic priorities requested herein need to be considered and adopted in setting up of the Union Territory of Ladakh to calm down the people and dispel doubts and concerns that are hovering around us at this point of time.”
Speaking to NewsClick, Congress leader Tsering Namgail said, “People of Ladakh are concerned. They fear that they will lose jobs and land. They want the government to assure them that their rights will be protected.”
‘Article 370 and 35A gave us protection’
While Leh hailed the central government’s decision of separating it from Jammu and Kashmir, the doubts and anxieties have started creeping in. Speaking to NewsClick, a local, who wished anonymity, said, “Article 370 and 35A gave us protection. Now we fear losing our jobs, environment and culture. Discussions about outsiders planning to buy land in Leh have been going on. This is a serious concern for us.”
Article 370 of the Indian Constitution granted special autonomous status to the erstwhile state of Jammu & Kashmir including protection against job and land. Now that the special status is gone, people from across India can permanently settle down in the state and can buy land.
“There is a sudden realisation among the people that Article 370 and 35A gave us protection,” said another local from Kargil.
‘Sixth Schedule is must for Ladakh’
A large number of Ladakhi students have come together to demand inclusion of Ladakh under the sixth schedule of Constitution. It enables functioning of autonomous district councils in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram, and grants special provisions to safeguard the rights of tribal population. Tribals constitute about 90% of the population of Ladakh.
“The BJP leader in Leh is deceiving people in the name of safeguarding constitutional rights. We want sixth schedule; nothing less than that. We have been protesting across India. The students even sat on a hunger strike. Sixth schedule is for safeguarding jobs, land and environment of the tribal population and we want the same to be extended to Ladakh,” said RD Chemday, president of Students’ Organisation of Unified Ladakh.
“We are working on a pamphlet and it will be out in a few days. It will list all the demands and our aspirations,” Chemday added.