Accusing the BJP-led Indian government of being non-serious towards the issues and concerns of the people of Ladakh, prominent leaders from the region on Saturday announced a mass agitation to press for their four main demands including full statehood and constitutional safeguards for the region.
The Leh-based Apex body of People’s Movement for 6th Schedule and the Kargil Democratic Alliance (KDA) jointly called for a general strike on December 6 followed by public rallies and mass contact programmes in both Leh and Kargil districts in March coinciding with “improved weather conditions”.
Announcing the programme at a joint press conference after the third round of talks between the two powerful bodies of the region, chairman Apex body and former MP Thupstan Chhewang and co-chairman of KDA Asgar Ali Karbalai said they decided to step up agitation in support of their demands, which also include one more Lok Sabha seat and two Rajya Sabha seats besides a special recruitment drive for the local youth to fill up over 10,000 vacancies in Ladakh.
Both the Apex body and the KDA, which is a separate amalgam of socio-religious, political and youth organisations of Leh and Kargil districts, were formed after the August 5, 2019 development when the Centre abrogated the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcated it into union territories of J-K and Ladakh. The BJP Ladakh was also part of the Apex body but later distanced itself after it raised the demand for the full statehood.
However, on August 1, the ideologically different representatives of Kargil and Leh districts joined hands to seek full-fledged statehood along with constitutional safeguards for the region — some eight months after their historic meeting last year.
“The entire Ladakh region is united in support of our jointly chalked out four-point agenda…the government of India has not shown seriousness to address the desire and demands of the people of Ladakh, prompting us to review our strategy and go for mass agitation,” Karbalai said.
He said nearly three months have passed since the delegations of the two bodies met visiting Indian minister Nityanand Rai in Leh on August 28 and raised their demands but there was no headway, barring accepting the demand for issuance of Ladakh Resident Certificate at par with the previously held permanent resident certificate to facilitate recruitment in government jobs.
The visiting minister was not initially willing to meet the KDA and the Apex body but was forced to review his decision after people of Ladakh observed a strike on the call of the leaders of the two bodies, he said, adding attempts are continuously being made to break the alliance between the two districts.
“We have decided to go for mass agitation and are calling for a complete strike on December 6. It will be followed by mass public rallies in the twin district headquarters of Leh and Kargil and public mobilisation from block to village level to reach out to every household,” he said.
Karbalai said though full statehood to the region remains the top on the agenda of both the bodies, the meeting decided to oppose any move to fill up nearly 12,000 jobs in various government departments by promotion quota.
“We will strongly oppose any such move or any attempt to outsource jobs to daily wagers. It will be a great injustice to the educated unemployed youth,” he said.
The KDA leader asked people to remain cautious as attempts are being made by the BJP to break their alliance and create confusion among the minds of the public.
“The BJP is the only party which is outside the KDA and the Apex body. We are hopeful that the local leadership will see reason and become part of the joint alliance in near future,” he said.
Karbalai said the Kargil Buddhist Association has also joined the KDA and attempts would be made to address all the concerns and issues raised by the religious organisation.
Chhewang said, “We have no personal interests and our struggle is for the people of Ladakh and for our coming generations.” “We will go from village to village and mobilise the public to defeat the designs of those working against the interests of the people,” he said.