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Complete Shutdown in Ladakh: Demand for statehood

The shutdown call was made earlier this week, and the Centre announced on Friday a second meeting of a high-powered committee set up by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to address the region’s demands following its separation from the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir. 

The Union Territory of Ladakh observed a shutdown on Saturday over demands for statehood and Constitutional protection under the Sixth Schedule, despite the Centre’s announcement of a second round of talks. The streets of Kargil and Leh saw hundreds of people gathering in freezing temperatures to press for their demands. 

The shutdown call was made earlier this week, and the Centre announced on Friday a second meeting of a high-powered committee set up by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to address the region’s demands following its separation from the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir. 

People Marching towards Leh, (Image credit: Mint)

The Leh Apex Body Leh (LAB) and Kargil Democratic Alliance (KDA), the two socio-political organisations leading the movement, are demanding statehood for Ladakh, safeguards under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution, job reservations for Ladakh’s youth, and separate Parliamentary constituencies for Leh and Kargil. Both bodies had on January 23 submitted a memorandum to the Union Home Ministry, demanding statehood for Ladakh, and status under the Sixth Schedule.

The Centre has already constituted a high-powered committee to look into the demands for Ladakh. In the first round of talks held on December 4, 2023, the committee chaired by MoS Home Nityanand Rai discussed measures to protect Ladakh’s “unique culture and language”, considering its geographical location and strategic importance, as well as “ensuring the protection of land and employment for the people of Ladakh”.

The second round of talks is scheduled for February 19 at the MHA. The 15-member committee includes eight government members, including Lieutenant Governor Brigadier B D Mishra (Retd), Ladakh MP Jamyang Tsering Namgyal, chairpersons of the Autonomous Hill Development Councils of Kargil and Leh, and MHA officials. 

Representatives have also demanded a Ladakh Resident Certificate, similar to the Permanent Resident Certificates (PRC) issued in the former state of J&K. The central government has urged the ABL and KDA to end their protests.

Sources said that the representatives had also submitted a draft of a bill for amending the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act of 2019 to provide statehood to Ladakh.

Speaking to news agency ANI, Haji Ghulam Mustafa, the legal adviser of Leh Apex Body and Kargil Democratic Alliance, said, “Ever since Ladakh has become a UT, Apex body and KDA have had a demand on the four-point agenda. All our powers which were people-centric have weakened.””When we were a part of Jammu and Kashmir, we had four members in the assembly and two in the legislative council. Now we have no representation in the assembly,” he said.

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