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MHA to examine 6th Schedule inclusion, Statehood for Ladakh

All Religious leaders call for ‘Ladakh Bandh’ on March 6

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LEH: A day after Apex Body Leh (ABL) and the Kargil Democratic Alliance (KDA) said that their talks with the MHA officials and union Home Ministry failed to yield any positive outcome, the religious organisations in Leh have called for ‘Ladakh Bandh’ on Wednesday.

A complete shutdown will be observed in Ladakh on March 6 in the support of ABL and Leh, the religious leaders said on Tuesday, even as they extended their support to social activist Sonam Wangchuk’s indefinite climate fast beginning Wednesday, here.

Hours after the two regional groups of Ladakh said on Monday that the joint sub-committee consisting of its leaders, Ladakh advisor and MHA officials failed to make any headway after two back-to-back meetings with central government functionaries, Union Home Minister Amit Shah had assured the ABL and the KDA leaders who had called on him, that the government-appointed high-powered committee formed to look into their statehood and other demands has been discussing the modalities to provide such Constitutional safeguards.

However, the ABL and KDA had said that they would consult with the people of Ladakh to devise a future course of action.

On Tuesday, representatives of all religious organisations in Leh addressed a press conference and gave a call for ‘Ladakh Bandh’ on Wednesday.

As our leaders said that nothing positive came out in Monday’s joint sub-committee meeting and their subsequent meeting with Home Minister Amit Shah, the talks for now are stalled, said the religious leaders.

“As the matter is related to our future, and the future of Ladakh, all religious and community leaders have unanimously decided that Ladakh would be shut down on Wednesday,” they said.

We appeal everyone in Leh and Kargil to support this shut down call, they added.

The religious leaders also extended support to social activist Sonam Wangchuk’s indefinite climate fast beginning Wednesday, here.

Wangchuk is sitting on the fast in support of the demands of ABL and KDA, and to draw attention of the people around the world for adopting climate-friendly lifestyles to save Ladakh’s glaciers from global warming.

“We appeal people of Ladakh to come out in large numbers to support Sonam Wangchuk on Wednesday morning and pledge to unite for Ladakh’s future. We will not stop till we get our rights,” the religious leaders said.

The ABL and the KDA have been demanding statehood for Ladakh, the inclusion of the Union territory in the 6th Schedule of the Constitution and the setting up of an exclusive public service commission for the high-altitude region.

According to a statement issued by the two organisations on Monday, the joint sub-committee comprising 6 leaders of ABL and KDA held a meeting with officials of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs and the advisor of the Union Territory of Ladakh which “ended without any concrete outcome”.

Subsequently, the sub-committee held a meeting with Union Home Minister Amit Shah at his residence that “too didn’t result in any positive outcome”, the ABL-KDA statement said.

The organisations also said they have decided to consult with the people of Ladakh to devise a future course of action.

The Home Ministry, however said, that Shah told the delegation that under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the central government was committed to providing necessary constitutional safeguards to the Union Territory of Ladakh.

“He assured that the High Powered Committee on Ladakh constituted to look into the demands of ABL and KDA have been discussing the modalities to provide such constitutional safeguards,” according to the ministry.

“Home minister expressed that the consultative mechanism established through this High Powered Committee should continue to engage on issues such as measures to protect the region’s unique culture and language, protection of land and employment, inclusive development and employment generation, empowerment of LAHDCs and examine constitutional safeguards for positive outcomes,” the statement added.

The ministry said the High Powered Committee (HPC) for Ladakh headed by Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai has been working actively with representatives of the ABL and the KDA and significant progress has been made.

“A sub-committee constituted by the HPC is also actively engaged with the Ministry of Law and other experts. The second meeting of the said sub-committee was held today which was attended by the representatives of ABL and KDA.

“Senior officers of the Ministry of Home Affairs, Department of Legal Affairs and Legislative Department were also present. The meeting was held in a cordial manner and various issues pertaining to land, employment and constitutional safeguards progressed for the benefit of the people of Ladakh,” the home ministry said in the statement.

The sub-committee was formed following a meeting held on February 19 between the HPC and a 14-member delegation of the LAB and the KDA, representing various organisations of the Union Territory.

Thupstan Chhewang, Chering Dorjay Lakruk and Nawang Rigzin Jora, representing the LAB, and Qamar Ali Akhoon, Asgar Ali Karbalai and Sajjad Kargili, representing the KDA, are members of the sub-committee.

The other demands of the delegation include two Lok Sabha seats (one for Kargil and one for Leh) and job opportunities for the residents of the Union Territory, sources said earlier.

Ladakh currently has one Lok Sabha constituency. Ladakh, which no longer has any Assembly constituency, was earlier part of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir. The provisions of Article 370 of the Constitution, which gave a special status to Jammu and Kashmir, were abrogated on August 5, 2019, and the erstwhile state was bifurcated into the Union territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.

According to the provisions of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, Jammu and Kashmir has been made a Union Territory with a Legislative Assembly and Ladakh a Union Territory without any Assembly. There were four representatives from Ladakh in the erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir Assembly.

The BJP-led Centre assured the delegation from Ladakh in December last year that it was committed to fast-tracking the development of the Union Territory and meeting the aspirations of the people in the region.

The assurance was given at a meeting held with the HPC for Ladakh. The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has formed the HPC for Ladakh under Rai’s chairmanship with a mandate to discuss the measures needed to be taken to protect the region’s unique culture and language, taking into consideration its geographical location and strategic importance.

The HPC has also been formed for the protection of land and employment, measures for inclusive development and employment generation in the region, measures related to the empowerment of the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Councils (LAHDCs) of Leh and Kargil and the constitutional safeguards that could be provided to ensure the measures and protection as mentioned above.

Several organisations of Ladakh were demanding a separate Union Territory for the region for decades and the demand was fulfilled on August 5, 2019.

The KDA and the LAB, however, in the recent past protested at different locations, including New Delhi, Jammu and Ladakh, highlighting their key demands.

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