Govt holds talks with Ladakh delegation on key demands

New Delhi, Feb 19 (PTI) A delegation of leaders from Ladakh held a meeting with the government’s representatives here on Monday to press for their demands, including statehood for the high-altitude region, two Lok Sabha seats and bringing the area under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.

The 14-member delegation of the Apex Body Leh (ABL) and Kargil Democratic Alliance (KDA) met the High Powered Committee (HPC) for Ladakh headed by Minister of State for Home Affairs Nityanand Rai.

“The meeting discussed the Ladakh delegation’s demands,” a source privy to the deliberations said, without elaborating further.

The demands of the delegation are statehood for Ladakh, two Lok Sabha seats (one for Kargil and one for Leh), job opportunities for the residents of the Union Territory and constitutional protection under the Sixth Schedule.

Ladakh currently has one Lok Sabha constituency.

Ladakh, which no longer has any Assembly constituency, was earlier part of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir.

The provisions of Article 370 of the Constitution, which gave a special status to Jammu and Kashmir, were abrogated on August 5, 2019 and the erstwhile state was bifurcated into the Union territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.

According to the provisions of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, Jammu and Kashmir has been made a Union Territory with a Legislative Assembly and Ladakh a Union Territory without any Assembly.

There were four representatives from Ladakh in the erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir Assembly.

The BJP-led Centre assured the delegation from Ladakh in December last year that it was committed to fast-tracking the development of the Union Territory and meeting the aspirations of the people in the region.

The assurance was given at a meeting held with the HPC for Ladakh.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has formed the HPC for Ladakh under Rai’s chairmanship with a mandate to discuss the measures needed to be taken to protect the region’s unique culture and language, taking into consideration its geographical location and strategic importance.

The HPC has also been formed for the protection of land and employment, measures for inclusive development and employment generation in the region, measures related to the empowerment of the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Councils (LAHDCs) of Leh and Kargil and constitutional safeguards that could be provided to ensure the measures and protection as mentioned above.

Several organisations of Ladakh were demanding a separate Union Territory for the region for decades and the demand was fulfilled on August 5, 2019.

The KDA and the ABL, however, in the recent past protested at different locations, including New Delhi, Jammu and Ladakh, highlighting the four demands.