Protest in Ladakh: Demands for Statehood and Sixth Schedule Protection Grow

Mainstream
01-Apr-2024
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Ladakh, known for its breathtaking landscapes, is witnessing widespread unrest as thousands take to the streets demanding the restoration of statehood and constitutional protection under the Sixth Schedule. The region, split from Indian-controlled Kashmir in 2019, has become a battleground for locals fighting for their rights amidst freezing temperatures and growing ecological concerns.

The call for protests, coined "Leh chalo," echoed through the streets, as the Leh Apex Body (LAB) and Kargil Democratic Alliance (KDA) spearheaded the movement, demanding constitutional safeguards and greater autonomy for Ladakh. Their demands stem from the abrogation of Article 370 in 2019, which stripped the region of its special status and led to its bifurcation into a Union Territory.

Sixth Schedule Status and Statehood:

Central to the protests is the demand for Ladakh's inclusion under the Sixth Schedule of the Indian Constitution. The Sixth Schedule provides special provisions for administering tribal areas, ensuring autonomy and protection of indigenous cultures. Ladakhis seek this status to preserve their unique identity and heritage, enabling them to govern themselves and make decisions regarding land, culture, and environment.

In addition to Sixth Schedule status, Ladakhis are fervently advocating for the restoration of statehood. The loss of statehood following the abrogation of Article 370 has left the region without an elected legislature, leading to a sense of disempowerment among the locals.

Constitutional Safeguards:

The resolution passed by the Leh Council outlines several key demands, including constitutional safeguards for land protection, employment guarantees, and the extension of constitutional provisions to the hill councils. Similarly, the Kargil resolution emphasizes statehood, Sixth Schedule status, parliamentary representation, and job security for Ladakhi youth.

Environmental Concerns:

Beyond political rights, the protests underscore Ladakh's ecological vulnerability and the urgent need for environmental protection. Melting glaciers, exacerbated by climate change and military activities, threaten the region's water supply and fragile ecosystem. Locals fear the encroachment of industrial projects and Chinese expansionism, which further imperils their livelihoods and traditional way of life.

Government Response:

Despite rounds of talks with government representatives, including Home Minister Amit Shah, Ladakhis remain disillusioned with the lack of concrete action. The formation of a "high-powered" committee by the Centre has been met with skepticism, with protestors dismissing it as inadequate and unrepresentative of their interests.

Path Forward:

As tensions escalate, Ladakh stands at a crossroads, grappling with the consequences of its geopolitical significance and the urgent need to safeguard its identity and environment. The protests serve as a stark reminder of the region's resilience and determination to assert its rights in the face of adversity.

Author: Anushka Taraniya

News Writer, MIT ADT University