High Powered Committee on Ladakh to meet on Feb 19 to discuss sixth schedule status

Home Ministry likely to make announcements addressing some Lakadh issues this month

Sunset in Leh Representational image

The Union Home Ministry (MHA) has called a meeting of the High Powered Committee (HPC) on Ladakh, chaired by Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai, in New Delhi on February 19. 

This meeting aims to discuss the issues jointly submitted by Leh Apex Body (LAB) and Kargil Democratic Alliance (KDA) to the MHA on January 16. Calls by LAB for a Ladakh bandh today and a rally in Leh led to the meeting. The KDA has also announced a similar programme in Kargil today. 

The LAB, supported by the influential Ladakh Buddhist Association (LBA), is advocating for a Sixth Schedule-type status for Ladakh, while KDA, representing the political and religious bodies of Kargil, is demanding statehood. 

The HPC, initially constituted on January 2, 2023, underwent reconstitution on November 30, 2023, due to objections raised regarding its composition and agenda. The first meeting of the HPC occurred on December 4, 2023. Subsequently, the MHA requested LAB and KDA to submit their agenda in writing, excluding certain points in the Sixth Schedule not relevant to Ladakh. Both bodies complied, submitting their agenda to the MHA on January 16, 2024. 

However, no meeting was convened until social reformer Sonam Wangchuk and LAB called for 'Leh Chalo' on February 3, a massive rally in support of their four-point agenda, including Statehood, Sixth Schedule status, a dedicated Public Services Commission (PSC), and two Parliamentary seats for Ladakh. 

In addition to 'Leh Chalo,' the LAB has called for a complete bandh in Leh today, while the KDA has declared a bandh in Kargil on Saturday. The All Kargil Transporters Association has distanced itself from the bandh stating that the KDA has not addressed their genuine demands regarding buses, trucks, and taxis. 

The written points submitted by LAB and KDA to the MHA are expected to be discussed in the meeting, along with other issues raised by committee members. Headed by Union MoS Home Nityanand Rai, the HPC comprises LG Ladakh Brig (Retd) B.D. Mishra; Lok Sabha member from UT Jamyang Tsering Namgyal; Chairpersons-cum-CECs Leh and Kargil Hill Councils; Joint Secretary MHA Jammu, Kashmir, and Ladakh; Director/Deputy Secretary Ladakh MHA (Member Secretary) and seven representatives each from LAB and KDA. 

The LAB representatives include Thupstan Chhewang, Chairman LAB, Chhering Dorjey Lakrook, Nawang Rigzin Jora, President Congress Ashraf Ali Barcha, Dr. Abdul Qayum, Tsering Wangdus, and Padma Stanzin. The KDA leaders in the HPC are Asgar Ali Karbalai, Working President of Congress, Qamar Ali Akhoon, General Secretary NC, Sajjad Hussain Kargili, Sheikh Bashir Shakir, Skarma Dadul, Mubarak Shah Naqvi, and Syed Ahmed Rizvi. 

An announcement addressing some Ladakh issues is expected from the Union Home Ministry this month, well before the imposition of the Model Code of Conduct for Lok Sabha elections in the first week of March. The MHA might make announcements, including safeguards for land, culture, and identity. However, the possibility of statehood has been ruled out. 

Regarding the demand for two Parliamentary seats for Ladakh instead of one at present, it can only be considered after 2026, as the delimitation of constituencies has been frozen until then. Issues related to job opportunities and the Public Services Commission (PSC) demand are considered top priorities, according to sources. 

It's worth mentioning that the BJP is not part of LAB and KDA, even though its Lok Sabha member from Ladakh, Jamyang Tsering Namgyal, is a member of the HPC. CEC-cum-Chairperson Leh Autonomous Hill Development Council Tashi Gyalson, also a BJP leader, is part of the HPC.


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