Saturday, April 13
Ladakh leaders discuss strategy ahead of HPC meet on Monday

Ladakh leaders discuss strategy ahead of HPC meet on Monday

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LEH: After a stormy ten-week period which witnessed massive protests in Ladakh, the leaders of the joint delegation of Leh Apex Body and Kargil Democratic Alliance have landed in New Delhi, and are set to attend the crucial meeting of the High Powered Committee (HPC), headed by union minister of state of Home, Nityanand Rai on Monday forenoon.

The meeting will have the presence of Lieutenant Governor of Ladakh (Retd) BD Mishra, Lok Sabha MP Jamyang Tsering Namgyal, Chief Executive Councillors-cum-Chairpersons of Leh and Kargil Hill Development Council—Tashi Gyalson and Mohd Jaffer Akhoon, Union Home Secretary AK Bhalla and senior officers of the MHA dealing with Ladakh division, besides the leaders from the two organisations leading the agitation in the UT, over their four-point agenda of demands, including the demand for full statehood and extension of the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution to the region, early recruitment process including a separate Public Service Commission for Ladakh and making the jobs in the region exclusive to Ladakhis, besides separate Lok Sabha seats for Leh and Kargil districts.

On Sunday, Leh Apex Body and Kargil Democratic Alliance convened an important meeting at Ladakh Bhawan in Delhi ahead of the Monday meeting with the MHA.

The meeting to be held at 11.30 AM in room number 119, First Floor, MHA, North Block, New Delhi 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, in January, 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.

On February 3, braving the extreme cold, thousands of people from Leh and Kargil districts took out a massive protest march in Leh for their demands, even as a complete shutdown was observed across the union territory with all business establishments, offices and other trading hubs closed, besides the transport remained off the roads in twin districts of the region.

Majority of non-political organisations, social and religious organisations, Traders Associations and Transporters Union supported the protest and participated along with thousands of people who gathered at the NDS Stadium and marched through the town before concluding their protest at Polo Ground Leh, despite the harsh climatic conditions.

The LAB has already said that if the meeting does not yield any categoric assurance from the MHA, the people of Ladakh will be forced to resort to agitational path.

Famed educationist Sonam Wangchuk, who had also participated in February 3 protest, has announced to go on fast in support of the Ladakh demands, while LAB chairman Thupstan Chhewang also made a similar announcement.

Chhewang while addressing a press conference on February 5 had said that a massive protest will be held on the first day of their fast unto death across Ladakh, as he asserted that the fast will begin soon after their meeting with MHA on February 19, if the discussions in the meeting do not come out positive and fruitful.

On the proposed fast unto death, Wangchuk had said, “First it will be Thupstan Chhewang (former BJP Lok Sabha MP) and me and if we die, who next and how many? All that roster is being prepared.”

He said he was earlier planning to go on a three-week-long fast from February 3 but postponed it after Chhewang, the chairman of the Leh Apex Body (LAB), asked him to wait till February 19, when prominent leaders from the Union territory would meet Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Nityanand Rai in New Delhi.

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.

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