LEH: The union Ministry of Home Affairs on Friday invited the Leh Apex Body (LAB) and Kargil Democratic Alliance (KDA) for the second round of dialogue on the various demand raised by them on February 19.
The meeting notice was sent a day before the Ladakh shutdown and ‘Leh Chalo’ call given by the two organisations—leading the protest in the newly created union territory for past three years now—to press for various demands including grant of statehood for Ladakh, inclusion of Ladakh in the sixth schedule of the Constitution giving it a tribal status, job reservation for locals, and a parliamentary seat each for Leh and Kargil.
The developments have created a fissures among the people of Ladakh, with several people demanding that the shutdown call be taken back, as the MHA is ready for discussion over the demands raised by LAB and KDA.
The MHA had constituted a High Powered Committee (HPC) under the chairmanship of Nityanand Rai, Minister of State for Home Affairs, for the Union Territory of Ladakh in January 2023. The committee was reconstituted as demanded by the Leh Apex Body and the Kargil Democratic Alliance in November 2023.
“It has been decided to hold the second meeting of the HPC on 19.02.2024 at 11.30 AM in room number 119, First Floor, MHA, North Block, New Delhi to discuss the issues as per the Terms of References (ToRs) of the said committee,” a meeting notice issued by Sunil Kumar, Under Secretary to the Government of India on Friday, said.
The February 19 meeting comes around a month after the Leh Apex Body and Kargil Democratic Alliance submitted a joint document of draft of the demands to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs in New Delhi, as asked by the latter after their first meeting held on December 4 last year.
The submitted draft by the Apex and the Kargil Democratic Alliance encompasses key demands, including Statehood for Ladakh, two Parliamentary seats, setting up of the Public Services Commission (PSC), besides Sixth Schedule status for Ladakh, and was accompanied by a template Act for the State of Ladakh under the Sixth Schedule, outlines amendments to the Constitution and the J&K Reorganization Act to accommodate the proposed demands.
Pertinently in the December 4 meeting, the LAB and KDA leaders had briefed MoS Home, Nityanand Rai, who heads the HPC, of the situation in Ladakh and alleged disempowerment of local people by the bureaucracy in the union territory, as they rued their non-inclusion in decision-making process by the administration.
The MHA had asked the LAB and KDA leaders to not hold protests and agitations till the official talks are on, with the latter assuring Rai that till the time talks are going on, they won’t carry on with their protests in Ladakh.
However, last month, the LAB and the KDA gave the ‘Leh Chalo’ call for February 3, while expressing their dissatisfaction with the periodic meetings with the MHA, and asking people to converge in Leh to mark their protest.
The two socio-political organisations have planned the demonstration to commence at 10:00 am from the NDA Stadium, concluding at Polo Ground Leh, where a rally will be addressed on Saturday.
Leh Apex Body and Kargil Democratic Alliance are coalitions of socio-religious, political and youth organisations of Leh and Kargil districts, formed after August 5, 2019, when the Centre abrogated the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcated it into Union territories of J-K and Ladakh. They later joined hands and came out with the four-point agenda and held a series of protests in Leh, Kargil, Jammu and Delhi.