Ladakhis Protest in Capital over Demands of Statehood and 6th Schedule
New Delhi: Over a dozen social, religious and political bodies and students from Ladakh on Wednesday held a protest in New Delhi’s Jantar Mantar reiterating their demand for constitutional safeguards under the Sixth Schedule and restoration of statehood for the region.
Gigment, a 23-year-old student at Delhi College of Arts and Commerce said that participating in the protest was important for her as she fears the “exploitation” the current situation has posed for ecologically-fragile Ladakh.
“We are deeply connected to our land and environment and the 6th Schedule is an important safeguard for our people. We do not want the kind of development that they speak of, so we need these safeguards. It matters to me as a student for my future,” she told NewsClick.
The protest was called by two prominent groups, Ladakh Apex Body (LAB) and Kargil Democratic Alliance (KDA) in the capital. The two groups have been advocating four key demands, including statehood for Ladakh, constitutional safeguards on the lines of the Sixth Schedule (which grants autonomy to tribal communities), formation of a Public Service Commission, reservation of jobs for Ladakhis and creation of additional seats for both Leh and Kargil in Parliament.
Picture credit: Neelam Gaur
Wednesday’s protest is part of a year-long plan the two bodies have come up with for the demands. Similar protests were held in Jammu and Leh earlier in January.
Prominent activist Sajjad Kargili, who is also part of KDA, said that Ladakh needs saving in absence of democracy. He added that the region is on the brink due to several issues including on political, social and ecological levels.
“We want the return of democracy for the people of Ladakh. There is no space for dissent. Our glaciers are melting rapidly. In many villages, there are drought-like conditions. Ladakh needs immediate attention which is possible under the sixth schedule,” Kargili said.
People in Ladakh had been demanding the status of Union Territory for Ladakh when it was part of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir and even welcomed the move to downsize the region on August 5, 2019. The subsequent move to abrogate Articles 370 and 35 A, however, ended most constitutional guarantees that safeguarded land and jobs for the locals.
Agha Ain ul Huda, a representative of religious Anjuman Sahab Zaman Ladakh and Kargil, said that the people of the region are “disappointed” with the granting of Union territory that they believe is “useless” as it was replaced by a bureaucratic set-up.
“The local elected representatives have no powers. There is no democracy and no policy regarding land or land acquisition. The UT administration has been imposed on us,” Huda said. He also argued that those who had advocated for the demand of UT for years are today agitating over it.
Picture credit: Neelam Gaur
This is the first time that people from various groups and regions in the Ladakh region have united to press for their four-point demands. Earlier this week, the government also replaced the Lt. Governor of Ladakh UT amidst the ongoing agitation.
Congress leader Tsering Namgyal said that it has been almost three years but nothing concrete has been happening. “Even national icons and environmentalists like Sonam Wangchuk had to go for a hunger strike even if it was symbolic,” he said.
Tsering added that people in the region had not hoped that they would be faced with such a “crisis”.
“People are angry, they are scared. They are in a dilemma about the future of Ladakh. They don’t know where Ladakh is heading for. But this protest is the beginning and not the end. They will continue until the demands are met,” he said.
(With inputs from Anees Zargar in Srinagar)
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