A Year Since Ladakh Became A UT: Here’s What Its People Want Today

Concerns over land & employment, along with political representation, are the key issues facing Ladakhis today. 

Published
Opinion
3 min read
Image of maps of newly-formed UTs of Ladakh and J&K used for representational purposes.
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On 5 August 2019, the BJP government revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and statehood, and Ladakh was bifurcated from the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir and was declared a union territory without legislature. Kargil and Leh are the two districts of Ladakh region. Ladakh has different religious communities and multiple cultural identities.

The people of this small populated region have different aspirations. People in Leh district have been demanding – since the last few decades – a union territory with legislature; however, the people in Kargil district were strongly opposed to this idea.

Kargil was against the division of the state on the basis of language, region and religion; however, Kargil demanded the divisional status of Ladakh with rotational headquarters – for six months each in Kargil and Leh. Each district has a autonomous hill development council, and each council has twenty-six elected and four nominated councillors who form the executive body.

Demands For ‘6th Schedule’ – For Land & Job Protection

In the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh had two members of the legislative assembly from each district, and one member of the legislative council from both the districts including the hill development council.

In August 2019, when the state of Jammu and Kashmir was divided and the special status was abrogated, the people of Kargil strongly objected and staged protests, while the people of Leh were seen dancing and celebrating the government’s move.

One year hence, the celebrations have made way for genuine concern on both sides – with apprehensions surrounding land ownership and employment.

The senior leaders in Leh have formed an apex body of all political and religious groups, demanding the sixth schedule for the protection of jobs and land. However, in Kargil, the demand for the restoration of statehood with the special status is being demanded. The apex body called for the boycott of the sixth LAHDC-Leh elections unless the demand for the sixth schedule were granted; however, the call was withdrawn after a meeting in Delhi.

Alienation, Uncertainty & Fear

After one year of bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir state, the Union Territory of J&K has a legislature, while the Union Territory of Ladakh is without legislature. The youth are concerned about their future. Before the special status of J&K was revoked and Article 35A was scrapped, government jobs were reserved for permanent residents only.

Now, as Ladakh does not have PSC, people are demanding similar land and job securities which were there before 5 August 2019. For land, there is no defined law at the moment.

The initial six-seven months since bifurcation were affected by the curfew in the Kashmir Valley, and later, due to the coronavirus-induced lockdown. People ran into deep financial trouble as they completed one year without any economic activity.

People in Kargil have been feeling a sense of alienation within the UT of Ladakh, as the Governor of the UT of Ladakh rarely visits Kargil along with the other bureaucrats. Only time will tell how the serious matter of equal governance and no discrimination can be sorted out. In Ladakh, bureaucrats have been allegedly empowered, while locally elected representatives have been gradually disempowered.

After the revocation of Article 370, the new problem of the India-China border conflict has further caused turmoil and worry for the people of the border regions. The situation seems to be improving, but things are far from normal.

In short, the concerns regarding land and job protection, along with political representation, is the biggest question before the people of Ladakh today.

(The author is a freelance journalist and activist. He tweets @Sajjad_Kargili. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

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