The region enjoyed the constitutional guarantees under the abrogated Articles 370 and 35-A of the Indian constitution. With the Articles gone, more and more people and parties are demanding constitutional guarantees and a full-fledged statehood.

SRINAGAR — An unprecedented shutdown is being observed in the Union Territory of Ladakh, a division of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, with the people of the region demanding constitutional guarantees and statehood for the newly carved UT.

All business establishments remained shut in Leh and Kargil while public transport mostly remained off the roads. People also stayed indoors. The call for shutdown was issued by the Kargil Democratic Alliance (KDA), a conglomerate of various political, religious, students and social organisations and People’s Movement for the 6th Schedule for Ladakh (PMSL).

KDA held a meeting on Saturday demanding statehood for the region, constitutional safeguards, two Lok Sabha and one Rajya Sabha seat. The conglomerate also demanded filling up of 10,000 vacancies to overcome unemployment.

Sajjad Kargili, a political activist from Ladakh told Mountain Ink that a complete shutdown is being observed in Leh and Kargil. “The call for shutdown was issued by KDA and PMSL which the public has responded to and made it successful,” he said.

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The PMSL has been demanding a full-fledged statehood for Ladakh, constitutional safeguards on the lines of the 6th schedule, additional Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha seats for Ladakh to strengthen the people’s representation and participation in democratic processes.

The Ladakh division of the erstwhile state enjoyed the constitutional guarantees under the abrogated Articles 370 and 35-A of the Indian constitution. With the articles gone, more and more people and the local parties have been demanding special constitutional guarantees for the region.

Today’s shutdown is significant as both Kargil and Leh are observing it together. “It is all Ladakh together. Never has Ladakh seen such a shutdown earlier,” a student activist said.

Soon after the abrogation of the special status on August 5, 2019, the Buddhist majority Leh had celebrated the decision and the Muslim majority Kargil had opposed it. “But today both the regions stand together in demanding constitutional safeguards and statehood for Ladakh,” a resident of Leh said.

In November this year, prominent leaders of the region accused the BJP-led central government of being non-serious towards the issues and concerns of the people of Ladakh. They announced a mass agitation to press for their four main demands, including full statehood and constitutional safeguards for the region.

The Leh-based apex body of People’s Movement for 6th Schedule and the Kargil Democratic Alliance (KDA) jointly called for a general strike on December 6 followed by public rallies and mass contact programmes in both Leh and Kargil districts in March coinciding with “improved weather conditions”.

Announcing the programme at a joint press conference after the third round of talks between the two powerful bodies of the region, chairman of the apex body and former MP Thupstan Chhewang and co-chairman of KDA Asgar Ali Karbalai had said they decided to step up agitation in support of their demands, which also include one more Lok Sabha seat and two Rajya Sabha seats beside a special recruitment drive for the local youth to fill up over 10,000 vacancies in Ladakh.

Both the apex body and the KDA, which is a separate amalgam of socio-religious, political and youth organisations of Leh and Kargil districts, were formed after August 5, 2019. The BJP Ladakh was also part of the apex body but later distanced itself after it raised the demand for full statehood.

While the people of Leh have welcomed the fulfilment of their long-pending demand of the UT status and later formed the apex body in support of the demand for implementation of the sixth schedule of the Constitution to safeguard their culture and identity, the KDA was not in the favour of the UT status and raised the demand of full statehood to Ladakh.



However, on August 1, the ideologically different representatives of Kargil and Leh districts joined hands to seek full-fledged statehood along with constitutional safeguards for the region, some eight months after their historic meeting last year.

“The entire Ladakh region is united in support of our jointly chalked out four-point agenda, the Government of India has not shown seriousness to address the desire and demands of the people of Ladakh, prompting us to review our strategy and go for mass agitation,” Asgar Ali Karbalai, a political and a social leader had said.

Karbalai said though full statehood to the region remains the top on the agenda of both the bodies, the meeting decided to oppose any move by the UT administration to fill up nearly 12,000 jobs in various government departments by promotion quota.

“We will strongly oppose any such move or any attempt to outsource jobs to daily wagers. It will be a great injustice to the educated unemployed youth,” he said, urging the UT administration to show seriousness and fill up the vacancies without any further delay.

He asked people to remain cautious as attempts are being made by the BJP to break their alliance and create confusion among the minds of the public.

“The BJP is the only party which is outside the KDA and the apex body. We are hopeful that the local leadership will see reason and become part of the joint alliance in near future,” he said.

Karbalai said the Kargil Buddhist Association has also joined the KDA and attempts would be made to address all the concerns and issues raised by the religious organisation.

(With inputs from agencies.)

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