Ladakh Demand Statehood


Ladakh saw a near-complete shutdown on Saturday. Thousands of protestors marched on the streets demanding the restoration of statehood and constitutional protection under the sixth schedule in the Union Territory.

Ladakh has been witnessing protests over statehood and constitutional protection of their identity since the abrogation of Article 370. The UT is governed by Lt. Governor Dr B.D. Mishra, who has been largely a mute spectator to the upheaval. On the other hand, where people are being growingly conscious about protecting their unique identity, and heritage and securing the elevation of Ladakh as a full-fledged State.

Why is Ladakh witnessing protests?

Ladakh lost its special privileges and powers under the statehood with the abrogation of Article 370 in 2019. Amid several resolutions being passed in the two hill councils, a few have shared a common streak keeping in mind the ground reality in the UT; the demands of people.

On August 5, 2019, the BJP government rescinded the special status of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 of the Constitution and bifurcated the state into the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh which came into existence on October 31, 2018. Ladakh has since been without an elected legislature.

In the resolution passed by the Leh council, the following demands have been made: constitutional safeguards for the protection of land; employment guarantee; protection of culture, trade, and environment; and extension of provisions of the Constitution to the hill councils. The Kargil resolution is more categorical and has four demands: Statehood for Ladakh, Sixth Schedule status for Ladakh, two parliamentary seats in Ladakh instead of one, and job security and early job recruitment.

In the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council election of 2019, which the BJP won in majority, the party had promised to restore the statehood. However, the demands of both the Hill councils have been largely endorsed by the ruling party except that a few leaders have been caught between meeting the popular demand and siding with the Central administers.


How have the protests developed?

In the past four years, Ladakh has shut down on multiple occasions amid fears of disempowerment of locals and overreach of bureaucracy. In August 2021, LAB and KDA joined forces to amplify their demands.

On Saturday, Magsaysay Award winner Sonam Wangchuk, who was among the speakers, said that the Union ministers of the BJP-led Union government had promised to include Ladakh in the Sixth Schedule, after the reading down of Article 370, according to a report by the Wire.

According to the report, the education reformer and climate activist referred to the BJP’s election manifestos for the 2019 parliamentary election and 2020 Leh Hill Council election, Wangchuk said, “After these announcements, there is a deafening silence (from the Centre). Those who speak of the Sixth Schedule are being subject to harassment. Now there are lobbies in the mining industry who want to destroy Ladakh. We are only demanding our constitutional rights and we will not rest until it happens.”


A similar demonstration was held in Ladakh’s Kargil district. This protest was also attended by thousands of people. The demonstrators chanted slogans in favour of the Sixth Schedule and reservation in jobs for the people of Ladakh among others.

Earlier, in January, a demonstration was jointly organised outside the Press Club Jammu by LAB and KDA, where they announced They also announced a protest calendar which includes a rally in Delhi in the third week of February.

Flanked by his deputy Tsering Dorjey Lakruk, KDA co-chairpersons Qamar Ali Akhoon and Asgar Ali Karbalai besides other senior leaders affiliated with different non-BJP parties, he said they are not against the dialogue with the government on the issues concerning the people of Ladakh.

Former minister Karbalai said they have been peacefully agitating for their four-point agenda, which also include the creation of two separate parliamentary constituencies for Leh and Kargil districts, recruitment and job reservation for the youth of Ladakh along with the creation of a public service commission “Given the attitude of this government, we have decided to intensify our agitation and today’s program was part of it. We will move to Jantar Mantar, Delhi in the third week of February and will follow it up with village, block, and district-level protests across the UT of Ladakh. We will go for strikes if our demands are not met,” he said.

What has been the Centre’s involvement?

On December 4, the two civil society groups held talks with a committee formed by the Centre in New Delhi, where they also demanded job reservations for locals and a parliamentary seat each for the districts of Leh and Kargil. The next round of talks is scheduled for February 19.

Earlier in January 2023, the Union Home Ministry established a 17-member high-powered committee, headed by Minister of State Rai, with the objective of “ensuring the protection of land and employment” for the people of Ladakh.

However, the protest comes days after the two key bodies dismissed the central government’s “high-powered” committee over issues related to its mandate and the composition of the members.

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