SRINAGAR: With the Central Government showing reluctance towards granting Statehood and Sixth Schedule status to the Union Territory of Ladakh, the Leh Apex Body (LAB) and Kargil Democratic Alliance (KDA) have scheduled an important joint meeting in Kargil on Wednesday, media reports said. The outcome of this meeting will determine their future course of action, which may include resorting to agitation.
Ahead of the LAB and KDA meeting, Jamyang Tsering Namgyal, the sole Lok Sabha representative from Ladakh and a young BJP leader, expressed concerns over the Sixth Schedule status, stating that it would undermine the authority of the twin Hill Development Councils in the Union Territory. Instead, he emphasized the need for strengthening these Councils.
Thupstan Chhewang, LAB chairman and a two-time Lok Sabha member from Ladakh, along with co-chairman Chering Dorjay, announced that the entire Apex Body would travel from Leh to Kargil for in-depth discussions with the KDA. The primary agenda is to address the lack of response from the Union Home Ministry regarding their demands. Chhewang confirmed the attendance of all KDA members and stressed that the meeting would scrutinize the absence of any official communication between the Union Home Ministry and the LAB and KDA leadership.
As per the reports in media, Insiders revealed that the Union Home Ministry had established a High Powered Committee led by Union Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai in January. However, the LAB and KDA rejected its composition and agenda, leading to the committee’s inactivity. Some members of the Leh Apex Body have also raised their concerns with the Lieutenant Governor of Ladakh, BD Mishra.
Informal sources indicate that the Union Home Ministry is currently disinclined to engage in talks with the LAB and KDA, following the rejection of the committee’s proposed composition and agenda. This situation prompted the LAB and KDA to convene a meeting, deliberate on the issues, and determine their future plan of action. After the meeting, the two bodies plan to hold a joint press conference in Kargil, where they may announce their intention to pursue an agitational approach to achieve their four-point agenda, which encompasses Statehood, Sixth Schedule status, two Parliamentary seats, and increased employment opportunities for Ladakh.
In the meantime, Jamyang Tsering Namgayal, the Ladakh MP and BJP leader, expressed his opinion on the Sixth Schedule status during a press interaction in Kargil. He argued that such a status would weaken the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Councils (LAHDCs) in Leh and Kargil and stressed the need for empowering the Councils instead. He highlighted that these issues had been raised in Parliament, focusing on constitutional safeguards, the environment, land, and culture.
Previously, the Central Government has practically ruled out granting Statehood and Sixth Schedule status to Ladakh. However, they are considering enhancing the empowerment of the LAHDCs in Leh and Kargil through either an Act of Parliament or an order from the Union Home Ministry. This empowerment would aim to protect Ladakh’s land, culture, heritage, and provide the twin Councils with increased financial and administrative powers to facilitate further development within their jurisdictions.
It should be noted that the High Powered Committee constituted by the Union Home Ministry at the beginning of this year is still active. Nevertheless, the LAB and KDA have distanced themselves from the committee due to its lack of meetings despite four months since its formation. The two organizations insist on the inclusion of their chosen members and agenda items in the committee’s proceedings. They have already communicated their requests to the Union Home Ministry, proposing specific names from their bodies to participate in the committee and suggesting agenda items such as the Sixth Schedule status, Statehood for Ladakh, two Parliamentary seats, and job opportunities.