Talks For Statehood Failed, Say Ladakh Leaders After Meeting Amit Shah

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Talks For Statehood Failed, Say Ladakh Leaders After Meeting Amit Shah

The leaders from Ladakh held statehood talks with the Centre earlier as well (File)

New Delhi:

The Centre’s talks with Ladakh’s civil society leaders failed after a six-member delegation from the Union Territory met with Home Minister Amit Shah in Delhi today.¬†Former BJP MP Thupstan Chhewang, who is also the chief of the Ladakh Buddhist Association (LBA), has been leading the talks.

“We met Amit Shah at his residence but he categorically said that neither statehood nor guarantee within the Sixth Schedule can be granted and that’s why talks failed,” Senior Vice President of Ladakh Buddhist Association Chering Dorjay Lakruk told NDTV.

According to Mr Lakruk, they came to Delhi on the Home Ministry’s invite for the third round of talks. “We met Home Ministry officials initially and then went to meet Amit Shah at his residence,” he said.

“The meeting with the Home Minister did not bring any positive outcome. So the leaders of Ladakh Apex Body and Kargil Democratic Alliance will now consult the people on the future course of action,” a statement released by the sub-committee members read.

In a press statement, the Home Ministry said, “Amit Shah assured the delegation that under the leadership of PM Modi, the government is committed to providing necessary Constitutional safeguards to the Union Territory of Ladakh. He assured that the High Powered Committee on Ladakh has been discussing the modalities to provide such Constitutional safeguards.”

“The Home Minister expressed that the consultative mechanism established through this High Powered Committee should continue to engage on issues such as measures to protect the region’s unique culture and language, protection of land and employment, inclusive development and employment generation, empowerment of LAHDCs and examine constitutional safeguards for positive outcomes,” it added.

Last week, Ladakh’s prominent climate activist Sonam Wangchuk said he would fast unto death in sub-zero temperatures if the talks with the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) officials fail.

He said that the government under the “influence of the industrial lobby” does not want to ensure constitutional safeguards for Ladakh.

Earlier, the MHA had agreed to examine the legality of granting statehood to Ladakh and its inclusion under the Sixth Schedule.

The MHA had also constituted a high-powered committee to address the grievances and demands of the people of Ladakh last year. The committee led by Nityanand Rai, the Minister of State for Home Affairs, held its first meeting on December 4.

The Ladakh Apex Body and the Kargil Democratic Alliance have jointly demanded statehood for Ladakh and its inclusion in the Sixth Schedule – giving it a tribal status, job reservations for the locals, and a parliamentary seat each for Leh and Kargil.

The Sixth Schedule under Article 244 of the Constitution protects tribal populations, allowing for the creation of autonomous development councils to frame laws on land, public health, and agriculture. As of now, 10 autonomous councils exist in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, and Mizoram.

Interestingly, the BJP is rallying its campaign for the 2024 elections on how the abrogation of Article 370 has benefitted both Jammu Kashmir and Ladakh. “But if they give in to this demand just ahead of elections, it will boomerang against them,” a senior official explained.

According to him, with the latest developments, they might lose the Ladakh seat. “They can afford to lose one seat but if the narrative fails then it will not only cost them both seats in Jammu but may also affect their vote share in other seats as well,” he added.

Ladakh was turned into a Union Territory without a Legislative Assembly after the Centre ended the special constitutional position of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir and split it into two Union Territories – J&K and Ladakh – on August 5, 2019.

In the last four years, Ladakh has shut down on multiple occasions amid fears of disempowerment of locals and overreach of bureaucracy.

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