The People’s Movement for 6th Schedule for Ladakh, a powerful platform representing various politicians, religious and social organisations, on Sunday withdrew their call to boycott the upcoming elections to the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC) Leh.
The apex body of People’s Movement had last week called for a complete poll boycott of the 6th general LAHDC Leh election, demanding inclusion of Ladakh in the 6th Schedule of the Constitution, having more than 95 per cent tribal population.
The leaders on Saturday met Home Minister Amit Shah to discuss their demand for a Bodoland Territorial Council-like arrangement in the Union Territory. They called off the boycott after the Centre assured them they would consider their demands of inclusion in 6th schedule, 15 days after the culmination of upcoming elections to the LAHDC Leh.
The Sixth Schedule makes separate arrangements for tribal-designated areas, restricting ownership of land and government jobs to local residents only.
Former MP Thupsten Chewang, former J&K minister Chering Dorjay Dorjay, Thiksay Monastery head Rinpoche Nawang Chmaba Stanzin met Amit Shah and Ministers of State G Kishen Reddy and Kiren Rijiju on Saturday in New Delhi.
A special plane flew the representatives along with IB officials to douse the crisis. Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla and IB chief Arvind Kumar were also present at the meeting that took place at Amit Shah’s residence.
“The meeting with the home minister was positive. After 15 days, we hope that fears of people will be allayed,” former MP Thupsten Chewang told India Today TV.
“We pressed for our demands but the Union Home Minister did not yield. However, Amit Shah assured the delegation that the rights of the people will be protected,” Chewang said.
Amid border tensions with China, Chewang said the boycott of the polls were also called off as Beijing should not have an advantage due to the earlier crisis, which has now been resolved.
“China should not benefit [out of the crisis] and we should not link the boycott with a Kashmir supported boycott,” Chewang said.
Meanwhile, Kiren Rijiju said the people in Ladakh wanted “protection of language, ethnicity, demography, land and jobs of indigenous people” and added that the Centre has agreed to safeguard ways to protect the interests of the people looking at all means.
“There were long term demands which were met after the creation of Union Territory of Ladakh. But in Ladakh, people wanted protection of language, ethnicity, demography, land and jobs of indigenous people. Ladakh people wanted the protection on lines of what has been given to some tribal areas in the northeast,” Kiren Rijiju said.
“But, in this case, a constitutional amendment would be required but the Centre agreed to safeguard ways to protect interests of the people looking at all means,” Kiren Rijiju added.
Chhering Dorje said the people in Ladakh need protection in land and jobs as they could “easily be reduced to a minority if outsiders are allowed”.
“We have miles of barren land and 3 lakh ethnic population. We could be easily reduced to a minority if outsiders are allowed, hence, we need protection in land and jobs,” Chhering Dorje said.
While the Union Territory of J&K has domicile laws as a safeguard, the representatives of Ladakh opposed it but want protection as they claimed the majority of the population in Ladakh is tribal.
There has been simmering demand in Leh for a hill council with legislative powers since the time Ladakh. While J&K has a legislative assembly, Ladakh is sans it. Earlier, all parties, including BJP local unit, came together to declare a boycott of elections to Leh LAHDC. With the last elections to the Council in 2015, the five-year term of the present council comes to an end on November 2.
The LAHDC Leh is scheduled to go to polls on October 16 — the first such exercise in the region after Ladakh was carved out from Jammu and Kashmir and granted the Union Territory status on August 5 last year following the abrogation of special status to the erstwhile state.
However, MoS G Kishen Reddy said the date is likely to be extended now. MoS Home will be flying to Ladakh on Monday to further placate people of the region.