Braving the cold, massive protest rallies surged in Ladakh’s Leh district on Saturday as locals organised a complete shutdown, pressing for their demands, including the statehood of Ladakh.
Thousands took to the streets and called for the territory’s inclusion in the sixth schedule of the Constitution for tribal status, job reservations for locals, and parliamentary seats for both Leh and Kargil. Videos circulating on social media showcased a huge crow, armed with placards, shouting slogans.
Ladakh was turned into a Union territory without a legislature following the abrogation of Article 370 and 35A, and remains a focal point since Jammu and Kashmir’s bifurcation into two Union territories on August 5, 2019. The shutdown was organised by the Leh Apex Body (LAB) and Kargil Democratic Alliance (KDA), who submitted a memorandum to the Union Home Ministry on January 23, urging statehood and Sixth Schedule status for Ladakh.
“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 J&K, we had 4 members in the assembly and 2 in the legislative council. Now we have no representation in the assembly. This has always been our demand that the people of Ladakh should have representation in the assembly and that we should get statehood,” Haji Ghulam Mustafa, legal adviser of Leh Apex Body and Kargil Democratic Alliance, told ANI.
Citing precedents in states like Mizoram, Tripura, Sikkim, and other northeastern states, the memorandum argued that Ladakh should be protected under the Sixth Schedule and Article 371 of the Constitution. “The reason is, that Ladakh is a strategically very important place. This is a tribal majority area and has all the features north-eastern states have… Along lines of the northeastern states, it is our demand that the provisions of the 6th schedule be implemented in Ladakh to protect its culture,” Mustafa told ANI.
Additional demands include the establishment of a Ladakh Public Service Commission to address limited opportunities for gazetted posts for Ladakhi students. The memorandum also presented a draft bill amending the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act 2019, proposing provisions for two MPs—one each from Leh and Kargil—and expressing hope for a Rajya Sabha seat.