On the second anniversary of the revocation of Article 370 on August 5, there was no celebration in Ladakh. Rather, political parties of the two districts - Leh and Kargil, which earlier held divergent views about the repeal of Article 370 came together to demand statehood.
The leaders from both districts addressed a joint press conference. Earlier, the Apex Committee of Peoples Movement of Ladakh led by its chairperson Thupstan Chhewang and the Kargil Democratic Alliance Co-Chairman Asgar Ali Karbalai held a meeting to forge a political consensus.
“We need protection for land and jobs under Article 371 or under the sixth schedule of the Constitution,” Karbalai said. He demanded two parliamentary seats for the region. “We will negotiate with the Union Government around these very issues and demands.”
Unlike in Leh, people in Kargil had opposed the revocation of Article 370 on August 5, 2019. Now while Kargil continues to seek restoration of Jammu and Kashmir autonomy and undoing of the former state’s bifurcation, it has joined forces with Leh to demand statehood and the special status under Article 371 for Ladakh.
The reason for this is that as a union territory, Ladakhis stare at a perpetual bureaucratic rule under a New Delhi appointed Lieutenant Governor. The Ladakh and Kargil Hill Development Councils which wielded significant power in the undivided semi-autonomous Jammu and Kashmir have become nonentities.
It took people in Leh two years to realize that the withdrawal of Article 370 is not the blessing that they had anticipated it to be. Similarly, the people in Kargil have grudgingly reconciled to the reality that the Article 370 move wasn’t going to be reversed, so they have settled for the demand for statehood along with Leh. This has created a difficult situation for the central government in Ladakh, a region whose aspirations it had apparently fulfilled by giving it union territory status. Now Ladakh has come up with the demand, New Delhi can’t possibly fulfill, and the people in the region feel that the status of a federally administered area that they had long aspired for had actually disempowered them.
Last year, in an unprecedented move, all political parties in Leh including the BJP had decided to boycott the then elections to Ladakh Hill Development Council (LAHDC) pending grant of the 6th Schedule of Constitution to the union territory. The safeguards under the constitutional provision were sought to protect the land, jobs and the identity of Ladakh.
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