Leh, Kargil join hands for full-fledged Statehood; safeguards under Art 370, 371 or 6th Schedule

Leh and Kargil leaders at a joint press conference in Leh on Sunday. —Excelsior/Morup Stanzin
Leh and Kargil leaders at a joint press conference in Leh on Sunday. —Excelsior/Morup Stanzin

Both bodies reject J&K-like domicile, seek Residentship certificate
*Call for 2 seats of LS, 1 RS; will raise issues before Centre collectively

Sanjeev Pargal

JAMMU, Aug 1: The Leh Apex Body (LAB) and Kargil Democratic Alliance (KDA) today announced consensus on four major demands of Ladakh including full-fledged Statehood with Constitutional safeguards, Residentship Certificate on the lines of State Subject to the people instead of Domicile, two seats of Lok Sabha and one Rajya Sabha and immediate filling up of 10,000 to 12,000 vacancies in the Government jobs which were pending since Ladakh was granted the Union Territory status on August 5, 2019. Click here to watch video
Generally, the ideologically different Leh and Kargil representatives stitched the historic alliance for collectively projecting demands of Ladakh before the Central Government at their second joint meeting held in Leh today which lasted four hours and was attended by both Chief Executive Councilors-cum-Chairpersons of Leh and Kargil Hill Development Councils Tashi Gyaltson and Feroz Khan respectively but was given a miss by lone Ladakh Lok Sabha MP and BJP leader Jamyang Tsering Namgayal. Even the CEC Leh Council Tashi Gyaltson and BJP district president for Leh, who attended the joint meeting, didn’t participate in the subsequent press conference. However, Leh Apex Body chief Thupstan Chhewang told media persons that Ladakh MP, CEC Leh and BJP district president have extended their support to the collective move.
Consensus on four major demands pertaining to Ladakh was announced at a joint press conference after the meeting which was addressed by Thupstan Chhewang, LAB Chairman, Qamar Ali Akhoon and Haji Asgar Ali Karbalaie, Chairman and co-Chairman KDA.
“Today is historic day in Ladakh. At our second joint meeting, the LAB and KDA have reached consensus on four major demands. We are of the view that full-fledged Statehood to Ladakh is the only solution to the problems which the people of Leh and Kargil districts have been facing since August 5, 2019 reorganization of Jammu and Kashmir. In all future meetings with the Government of India and the Ministry of Home Affairs, we will project full Statehood to Ladakh,” Chhewang and Karbalaie said at the press conference.
Outrightly rejecting Jammu and Kashmir-like Domicile certificate, the joint bodies of Leh and Kargil sought Residentship Certificate for the people of Ladakh which already exists, an indirect reference to the State Subject which was applicable to the undivided State of Jammu and Kashmir.
“The Union Territory administration of Ladakh has issued Recruitment Rules but there is no certificate on the basis of which the local youth have to apply for the jobs. There are burning issues of the youth as vacancies in the Government departments are not being filled up. The UT administration is delaying the issue and is blaming the Apex Body but the lapse actually lies on the part of administration. All posts which exist around 10,000 to 12,000 including Army and para-military forces should be immediately filled up otherwise both the bodies of Leh and Kargil will be forced to agitate and do whatever is possible,” Karbalaie said.
The two bodies sought Constitutional safeguards for Ladakh along with full-fledged Statehood either in the forms of Articles 370 or 371 or Sixth Schedule.
Saying that lone Lok Sabha seat in Ladakh often becomes bone of contention between Leh and Kargil districts and brotherhood is shattered due to politics, Chhewang and Karbalaie said there was consensus between Leh Apex Body and Kargil Democratic Alliance that the Government should give two Lok Sabha and one Rajya Sabha seats to Ladakh.
“Entire Ladakh now stands united. We will press with full force our four major demands with the Central Government now onwards. We will meet jointly to the Prime Minister and the Home Minister and project our issues,” the representatives of the LAB and KDA said.
Chhewang said the Ministry of Home Affairs had stated that joint delegation of Leh and Kargil will comprise two representatives each from the two districts besides the Lok Sabha MP and both the Chief Executive Councilors of Hill Development Councils but they will like the delegation to be expanded to four members each besides social, religious and political leaders.
“Whenever the Central Government now invites us for the talks, a joint delegation of Leh and Kargil will go. Even if we have to agitate for our demands by holding protests and shutdowns, they too will be held together. We have risen above the political affiliations for welfare and development of Ladakh,” Karbalaie said.
Replying to a question on the absence of ruling party representatives from the press conference, Chhewang said the BJP district president for Leh was present at the meeting while CEC-cum-Chairman of Leh Hill Development Council Tashi Gyaltson addressed the meeting.
“They had their own meetings and, therefore, are not present in the press conference. Ladakh MP (Jamyang Tsering Namgayal) had to join the meeting but he had prior commitments,” Chhewang said.
Asked about roadmap, Karbalaie said the roadmap has started from today with four-point agenda which is aimed at overall and holistic development of Ladakh. “We won’t let down the people of Ladakh”.
Responding to another question that there was no BJP member in the Kargil Democratic Alliance, Karbalaie said: “Not once but thrice we sent invitation to the BJP leaders for the meetings but they always expressed reservations. We can’t compel anyone for the meetings. This fault lies not on our part but on part of the BJP”.
It may be mentioned here that first meeting of the LAB and KDA was held in Kargil and it was second meeting that was hosted by the LAB in which the two sides reached consensus on four points.
On August 5, 2019, the Central Government had bifurcated erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir by making J&K and Ladakh as the two Union Territories While J&K was granted Legislature, the Ladakh was not given the Assembly.
In next four days, Ladakh will complete two years of the Union Territory but the Centre is yet to come out with clarity on replacement of State Subject to determine residentship of the people of Ladakh for Government jobs and other purposes.
Former Union Minister of State for Home G Kishan Reddy had held two rounds of talks—one each with LAB and KDA in New Delhi on the issues of Ladakh and was scheduled to meet joint delegation of the Union Territory but recently he was elevated as the Cabinet Minister and the Centre is yet to make it clear whether he will hold talks with Ladakh or Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai will take his place.
Leh had long history of struggle seeking Union Territory status for Ladakh with major agitation in 1989 in which some people sacrificed their lives. However, Kargil district was always opposed to the demand of UT.
Earlier, the KDA had demanded restoration of Articles 370 and 35-A but today it said the issue is sub judice and there is consensus on Constitutional safeguards to Ladakh under Articles, 370, 371 or Sixth Schedule.
Nearly a dozen leaders each of LAB and KDA attended today’s meeting in Leh. The two bodies are conglomerates of political, social, religious and student organizations of their respective districts of Leh and Kargil.

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