Srinagar: A group, representing religious organisations, student groups and political parties in Leh, Tuesday unanimously decided to boycott the polls to the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC), scheduled next month.
The Apex Body of People’s Movement for Sixth Schedule for Ladakh passed a resolution, stating the local residents have demanded that Ladakh be brought under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution, and constitutional safeguards on the lines of the Bodoland Territorial Council.
The group, representing local units of various political parties, including the BJP, AAP and Congress, said they would boycott the polls until the time their demands are met.
The Sixth Schedule of the Constitution makes separate arrangements for tribal-designated areas, restricting ownership of land and government jobs for local residents only.
The land and jobs rights of the local residents of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, which included Ladakh, were protected by the special status of J&K that was revoked last year in August.
While Leh did not protest the Modi government’s move then, the residents have, over the time, increasingly become insecure about their land and job rights, which were earlier protected under Article 370.
The group, in a statement to the media, said they unanimously resolved to boycott the ensuing elections.
“The Apex Body of Peoples Movement for Sixth Schedule for Ladakh unanimously resolved to boycott the ensuing sixth LAHDC Leh elections till such time the constitutional safeguard under the Sixth Schedule on the lines of Bodo Territorial Council in not extended to UT Ladakh and its people,” said the statement signed by 12 heads of different religious, political and student groups.
Former BJP Lok Sabha MP Thupstan Chhewang, former Rajya Sabha MP Thiksay Rinpochey, former J&K BJP minister Chhering Dorje Lakrook, president of Ladakh Congress Nawang Rigzin Jora, Leh BJP president Nawang Samtan, and AAP’s convener of Leh unit T. Phuntsog were among the signatories.
‘Main concern is control over land, jobs’
Speaking to ThePrint, Chhewang said the main concern of the people of Ladakh is that they should have “complete control over land ownership, land transfer and government jobs”.
“The People’s Movement of Leh had demanded similar powers be conferred to the Leh region on the pattern of Bodoland Territorial Council based on the Sixth Schedule of Indian Constitution, which provisions for special administrative and judicial powers to be federated to the local level where the tribal population amounts to more than 70 per cent.”
“The main concern of the people of Ladakh is that they should have complete control over land ownership, land transfer and government jobs, which will be only done if the area is designated as tribal, so that no non-tribal is able to buy land or have a job here,” he said.
“There is talk of extending Article 371 to Ladakh, which is not a good option and is weaker than the provisions under Sixth Schedule, which could help our region to retain its cultural identity,” added Chhewang, who left the BJP in 2018.
The call for the boycott of the polls comes after an election notification issued by the Ladakh administration last week.
According to the notification, the date for filling of nomination for LAHDC polls will begin from 21 September and elections, if necessary, will be held on 16 October. The counting will be held on 22 October and the election process will be completed on 27 October, the day when the five-year term of the present LAHDC expires.
All bakwas, says J&K BJP
J&K BJP, however, said this is all “bakwas (nonsense)”.
“This resolution means nothing. Yeh Sab Bakwas hai. We are going to Leh soon to talk to our people and we will fix everything,” general secretary of J&K BJP Ashok Kaul told ThePrint.
Congress leaders, meanwhile, said that they are committed to the cause of Leh and people’s interests come before party rivalries.
“People here fear that after revocation of J&K’s special status and bifurcation of the erstwhile state, land and job rights of people of Ladakh are vulnerable. We will fight this to the end. The BJP’s local unit fully understands this even if their national leadership wants to look the other way,” said a Congress leader, who didn’t want to be named.