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Demands from Leh and Kargil - Ladakh’s Current Status

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July 05, 2021

What is the issue?

  • When Jammu and Kashmir was bifurcated into two Union Territories on August 5, 2019, Ladakh was seen welcoming the reorganisation.
  • But various demands and concerns have been raised from its two districts, Leh and Kargil, over the last two years.

What is the government’s response?

  • The government appears to be paying more attention to the concerns now, after two years of bifurcation.
  • This happens parallel to the Centre’s outreach to the Jammu and Kashmir political leadership.
  • Reportedly, a committee under Minister of State for Home will seek to address these demands from Ladakh.
  • If the committee with planned representation from Leh and Kargil is set up, it would enable leaders from both the districts to work out a common negotiating front.

What are the different concerns in Leh and Kargil?

  • Kargil - Of Ladakh’s two districts, the August 2019 changes were immediately opposed by the people of Kargil.
  • The people of Kargil see themselves as a minority in Buddhist majority Ladakh.
  • So, the leaders of the majority Shia population in Kargil demanded that the district should remain part of J&K.
  • They also demanded that special status be restored.
  • This was to safeguard the rights of Kargil people over their land and employment opportunities.
  • Leh - Opposition from Leh came later.
  • Leh believed that it was being marginalised in the larger state of J&K.
  • So, a UT for Ladakh had been a long-standing demand in Buddhist majority Leh.
  • But what Leh leaders did not bargain for was the complete loss of legislative powers.
  • Earlier, Leh and Kargil each sent four representatives to the J&K legislature.
  • After the changes, they were down to one legislator - their sole MP, and with all powers vested in the UT bureaucracy.
  • Unlike the UT of J&K, Ladakh was a UT without an assembly.
  • So, the Ladakh districts fear that alienation of land, loss of identity, culture, language, and change in demography would follow their political disempowerment.

What about the Hill Development Councils?

  • Leh and Kargil have separate Autonomous Hill Development Councils (AHDCs).
  • These were set up under the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Councils Act, 1997.
  • The councils are elected.
  • However, the AHDCs have no legislative powers.
  • They have executive powers over the allotment, use and occupation of land vested in them by the Centre.
  • They also have the powers to collect some local taxes, such as parking fees, taxes on shops etc.
  • But the real powers are now wielded by the UT administration.
  • Worryingly, the UT administration is seen as even more remote than the erstwhile state government of J&K.

What is the recent demand in this regard?

  • Various groups in Ladakh are demanding for an autonomous hill council under the Sixth Schedule.
  • The Sixth Schedule is a provision of Article 224(a) of the Constitution.
  • It was originally meant for the creation of autonomous tribal regions in Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura.
  • Notably, hill councils under this provision will have legislative powers.
  • Evolving demands - There is no progress on Leh’s demand for Sixth Schedule protections.
  • So, the Leh leadership has now upped its demands asking for a Union Territory with an elected Assembly.
  • Meanwhile, another delegation demanded full statehood to Ladakh, as well as restoration of special status with Article 35 and 370 of the Constitution.
  • Other issues include protections for language, culture, land and jobs.
  • Another long-standing demand is the route between Kargil and Skardu in territory under Pakistan in Gilgit-Baltistan.

 

Source: The Indian Express

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