Monday, Jun 27, 2022
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Ladakh Battling Centralisation To Save Identity Culture

There is anxiety over rights of natives, influx of outsiders and lack of political representation after formation of the Union Territory of Ladakh in 2019

Ladakh Battling Centralisation To Save Identity Culture
Sharp U-turn in the Hills Photographs: Getty Images

With the formation of the Union Territory of Ladakh in 2019, there was a sense of satisfaction in the Buddhist-majority area of Leh that its long-standing demand had been fulfilled at last. Even when Kargil was protesting, Leh celebrated. However, two years later, there is much anxiety and restlessness not only in Leh but the whole of Ladakh. This anxiety is about the rights of natives of Ladakh in relation to employment and land; about the influx of outsiders and erosion of local culture, ecology and heritage; and most importantly, about the lack of political representation.

That everything is not fine in Leh was clearly ind­icated in September 2020, when most of the Leh-based social and political organisations gave a call to boycott the polls for the Ladakh Auton­omous Hill Development Council (LAHDC) till the Sixth Schedule of Constitution is granted for Ladakh and each of the two districts is granted councils on the lines of the autonomous Bodoland Territorial Council in Assam. In pursuit of this demand, all Leh-based parties—including the BJP, Congress and AAP—formed the People’s Movement for Sixth Schedule. Protests since then have not only intensified but there also have been qualitative changes in the very nature of the demands and the methods pursued. The Leh Apex Body (LAB) of  People’s Movement has joined the Kargil Democratic Alliance (KDA) for a common struggle. This is quite unprecedented since Leh and Kargil have a history of bitter opposition to each other’s goals and the two taking contradictory positions on the demand for UT.  These two bodies, leaving the traditional rivalries of Leh and Kargil behind, have launched a joint front with four major demands—full-fledged statehood with constitutional safeguards, residentship certificates on the lines of state subjects to the people instead of domicile, two seats in Lok Sabha and one in Rajya Sabha for Ladakh, and immediate filling up of vacancies of government jobs. In support of these demands, the LAB and KDA jointly gave a shutdown call in December 2021, which received an overwhelming response both in Leh and Kargil.

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