Tuesday, April 23
MHA to examine 6th Schedule inclusion, Statehood for Ladakh

MHA to examine 6th Schedule inclusion, Statehood for Ladakh

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LEH: The Union Government has agreed to examine how the provisions of the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution can be implemented in Ladakh’s context, besides addressing other demands raised in the cold desert, according to an understanding reached between Civil Society Leaders of Ladakh and Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) officials.

In the next meeting, legal and constitutional experts from civil society and government officials will come together to discuss the legality and the context of granting Statehood to Ladakh and its inclusion under the Sixth Schedule.

The sub-committee of the Kargil Democratic Alliance (KDA) and Apex Body Leh met with the Ministry of Home Affairs in Delhi to address three of the four critical issues outlined in Ladakh’s agenda, as announced by Ladakh leaders in a joint press conference following the meeting.

After thorough deliberations, the Ladakh leaders expressed satisfaction with the progress achieved and conveyed optimism about the upcoming meeting, anticipated to take place within the next week.

Co-Chairman Qamar Ali Akhoon, in a media interaction, also expressed contentment with the meeting’s outcomes.

Regarding the establishment of a Public Service Commission for Ladakh, the Ministry of Home Affairs assured a prompt notification to initiate action on this matter.

However, discussions on the other two demands, namely Statehood for Ladakh and inclusion in the Sixth Schedule, were detailed and substantial.

The ministry committed to further advancing these issues in the upcoming meeting, which will also involve legal experts to assess the demands from a legal perspective, as stated by Sajjad Hussain Kargili during the press conference.

The Ministry of Home Affairs also expressed a willingness to conduct future meetings in Ladakh. However, Ladakh leaders proposed holding the meetings in Delhi for the convenience of legal experts and political leaders who can actively participate.

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The Sixth Schedule under Article 244 of the Constitution protects tribal populations, allowing for the creation of autonomous development councils which can frame laws on land, public health, agriculture. As of now, 10 autonomous councils exist in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, and Mizoram.

On Saturday, members of the Leh Apex Body (LAB) and Kargil Democratic Alliance (KDA), representing the Buddhist majority and Shia Muslim-dominated regions respectively in Ladakh met MHA officials for a third round of meetings since December 4.

The LAB and KDA are jointly demanding Statehood for Ladakh, the inclusion of Ladakh in the Sixth Schedule thus giving it a tribal status, job reservations for local residents, and a parliamentary seat each for Leh and Kargil.

Ladakh was turned into a Union Territory without any Legislative Assembly after the special status of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 of the Constitution was revoked by the Parliament on August 5, 2019 and the erstwhile State was split into the UTs of Ladakh and J&K.

The meeting ended on a positive note, according to former Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) member of parliament Thupstan Chhewang, who is also the chief of the Ladakh Buddhist Association (LBA).

He has been spearheading the talks and the movement to ensure a constitutional safeguard for the region.

Along with climate activist Sonam Wangchuk, he had threatened to sit on a fast unto death in sub-zero temperatures if their demands were not met, but now says this will be postponed while the meetings with the MHA continue.

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Sajjad Kargili of the KDA said that MHA officials assured them that the issue of creating a Service Selection Board for Ladakh would be resolved soon, and they were examining if gazetted jobs could be provided along the lines of Sixth Schedule areas of northeastern States.

“The positive outcome is the result of the unity between LAB and the KDA. The meeting lasted over two hours and we discussed all our demands in detail,” Kargili said.

The MHA and the civil society groups have had two rounds of talks so far, on December 4, 2023, and on February 19.

Pertinent to mention here that the delegation from the Kargil Democratic Alliance and Leh Apex Body had previously engaged with the Ministry of Home Affairs on February 19 current year.

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In that meeting, it was decided to form a Sub-Committee with three leaders from both Leh and Kargil.

Ladakh UT has erupted in protests several times over the past four years amid concerns about the protection of land, resources, and employment for local residents, and bureaucratic overreach.

(Inputs from TH)

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