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Ladakh bodies not to meet Centre's high-powered panel on UT

Both LAB and KDA say their demands have been not included in agenda

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The Leh Apex Body (LAB) and Kargil Democratic Alliance (KDA), the two representative bodies of the two districts of Ladakh, have decided not to participate in the proposed meeting of the High Powered Committee constituted by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to “ensure protection of land and employment” for the people of Ladakh. 

The committee headed by Minister of State Nityanand Rai was formed on January 3. 

According to an MHA order, the 17-member committee that also includes Ladakh Lieutenant Governor R.K. Mathur will “discuss measures to protect the region’s unique culture and language taking into consideration its geographical location and its strategic importance”. 

The order, however, is silent on the key demands of the LAB and the KDA, which include statehood for the Union territory of Ladakh, constitutional safeguard under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution of India in order to protect the interest of the Tribal People of Ladakh, formation of Public Service Commission and reservation of jobs for youth of Ladakh, and creation of two separate parliamentary constituencies for Leh and Kargil.

The Leh Apex Body comprises representatives of political and religious bodies of Leh, especially the powerful Ladakh Buddhists Association (LBA). The KDA is a  political and religious organisation of the Muslim majority Kargil district.

Sajad Kargili, a member of KDA, told THE WEEK that they have decided not take part in the meeting as there was no mention of their demands. He said both the LAB and the KDA had a meeting in Jammu on Saturday to deliberate on the issue.

Kargili said they will participate in any meeting if it considers their demands.

On August 5, 2019, the Centre repealed Article 370 and split Jammu and Kashmir  into two union territories—Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh. People in the Buddhist majority Leh welcomed the decision but Kargil, where Muslims constitute a majority, rejected the move and demanded the restoration of Article 370 and statehood to Jammu and Kashmir.

In Leh, however, the euphoria over the UT status waned after it became clear that the protection of land, jobs and identity that the region had enjoyed while being part of Jammu and Kashmir was gone after the revocation of Article 370. The LAB then reached out to the KDA to jointly fight for the constitutional safeguards for the region.

Kargili said the MHA has arbitrarily excluded and included members in the High Powered Committee. The KDA meeting resolved that the agitation will continue until the four demands are accepted. 

The LAB and the KDA will hold protest rally in Jammu on January 15 and a dharna at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi in the third week of February. 

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