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Protests to Continue as Talks Over Ladakh's Status hit Roadblock

Two key organisations in the region said they will continue their protest against the government, and have planned demonstrations on January 15 in both New Delhi and Jammu.
Image Courtesy: Newsclick

Srinagar: The Leh Apex Body (LAB) and Kargil Democratic Alliance (KDA), the two major groups in Ladakh spearheading the fight for land and employment, have opposed the central government’s ‘high-powered’ committee formed earlier last week. 

The 17-member committee, constituted by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), was formed to “discuss measures to protect the region’s unique culture and language taking into consideration its geographical location and its strategic importance.”  

The representative bodies, however, considered this as a climbdown from their demands. Various leaders have since refused to participate in the process until their primary concerns are addressed. 

Tsering Dorjey Lakruk, LAB’s vice chairman, told NewsClick that it makes no sense for them to discuss any issue outside of the agenda. “What has been put forth during the committee formation is not in our agenda, so there is no point in discussing that. We will only discuss primary issues that include the demand of the sixth schedule for Ladakh and nothing less,” Lakruk said.  

The Leh Apex Body, an alliance of social, political and religious bodies from Buddhist, Christian and Muslim communities formed in 2020, and the Kargil Democratic Alliance have been protesting since the Himalayan region lost its. ‘special status’. As a former part of Jammu and Kashmir, the region enjoyed exclusive rights over land and jobs for the locals under Article 370 and 35A, which were abrogated in 2019. 

Since the formation of LAB, they have demanded 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 the creation of two separate parliamentary constituencies for Leh and Kargil.

The two key organisations have said they will continue their protest against the government, and have planned protests on January 15 in both New Delhi and Jammu. This is the first such protest outside the newly created union territory. 

The formation of the ‘high-powered’ committee was expected to bring a thaw, according to many, after a year-long stalemate, but faced immediate opposition. Many termed its mandate too vague, like KDA’s Sajjad Kargili, who was also named to the high-power committee. 

“There is no mention of the sixth schedule or any other demands that were made. They have come out with a vague order on land and religion,” Kargili said.  

The committee comprised of Lt Governor of Ladakh UT Radha Krishna, MP Ladakh, Jamyang Tsering Namgyal, and Chairmen of Ladakh and Kargil hill councils, various MHA officials, and members from LAB and KDA.

Social activist and president of Ladakh students’ Environmental Action Forum (LEAF), Jigmat Paljor said that apart from the lack of clear agenda for the committee, there is also a disagreement over some of the proposed members of the committee reflecting the urgency. 

“There is ambiguity as far as the committee is concerned. The names in the committee are also not the same as suggested by the KDA and LAP. It is very important that these names be included as suggested,” Paljor told NewsClick

In a statement, the two bodies also expressed strong opposition to the composition of the committee members. “The government has arbitrarily excluded and included members without consultation with the apex body and the KDA,” the statement read. 

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