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Ladakh leaders stage protest in support of statehood, other demands in Jammu

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Jammu: Prominent leaders from Ladakh held a protest here on Sunday as part of a campaign to press for their four demands including full statehood for the Union Territory and safeguards under sixth schedule of the Constitution to the region.

The protest demonstration was jointly organised outside the Press Club Jammu by the powerful Leh-based Apex body of peoples movement for the 6th schedule and the Kargil Democratic Alliance (KDA).

They also announced a protest calendar which includes a rally in Delhi in the third week of February.

“We have decided to stay away from the high-powered committee constituted recently by the ministry of home affairs as the government ignored our four-point agenda and also paid no heed to our suggestion about the composition of the panel,” former MP and chairman Apex body Thupstan Chhewang told reporters.

Flanked by his deputy Tsering Dorjey Lakruk, KDA co-chairpersons Qamar Ali Akhoon and Asgar Ali Karbalai besides other senior leaders affiliated with different non-BJP parties, he said they are not against the dialogue with the government on the issues concerning the people of Ladakh.

“The apex body had two separate meetings with the home minister, while the KDA had one meeting. We have joined hands to safeguard the interests of the people of Ladakh and want the government to make sincere efforts in resolving our demands,” Chhewang said.

Former minister Karbalai said they have been peacefully agitating for their four-point agenda, which also include the creation of two separate parliamentary constituencies for Leh and Kargil districts, recruitment and job reservation for the youth of Ladakh along with creation of a public service commission

“Given the attitude of this government, we have decided to intensify our agitation and today’s programme was part of it. We will move to Jantar Mantar, Delhi in the third week of February and will follow it up by village, block and district level protests across the UT of Ladakh. We will go for strikes if our demands are not met,” he said.

He said they have already forwarded their reservations over the constitution of the high powered committee to the government and “we want the government to include our demands in the agenda of the dialogue and also give due representation to the representatives named by the apex body and the KDA”.

Dorjay, also a former minister, said the entire population of Ladakh are with them.  “They (BJP Ladakh unit) were also part of the apex body but later distanced themselves (after the demand for full statehood was raised). They are welcome if they wish to join us again,” he said.

Both the apex body and KDA, which is a separate amalgamation of socio-religious, political and youth organisations of Leh and Kargil districts, were formed after the August 5, 2019 development when the centre abrogated the special status of J&K and bifurcated it into Union territories of J-K and Ladakh.

Sixth schedule seeks to safeguard the rights of the tribal population of a region through the formation of Autonomous District Councils (ADC). ADCs are bodies representing a district to which the Constitution has given varying degrees of autonomy within the state legislature.