Centre Assures "Time-Bound" Solution To Ladakh Leaders Over Statehood Demand

The MHA officials asked delegates not to hold protests back home and assured them that a time-bound solution would be reached.

Many in Leh launched a mass movement seeking constitutional safeguards. (Representational)

New Delhi:

The stalemate between the Centre and leaders of Ladakh and Kargil broke as the first round of talks was held Delhi today between the leaders of the High-Powered Committee (HPC) and officials of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).

These groups have been demanding separate statehood for Ladakh, constitutional safeguards on the lines of the Sixth Schedule (which grants autonomy to tribal communities), formation of a Public Service Commission, reservation of jobs for Ladakhis and the creation of two separate parliamentary constituencies for Leh and Kargil.

The MHA officials asked delegates not to hold protests back home and assured them that a time-bound solution would be reached.

The HPC constitutes key representatives from the Apex Body Leh (ABL) and the Kargil Democratic Alliance (KDA).

The meeting was chaired by Minister of State for Home Affairs Nityanand Rai and lasted for about two hours.

Public awareness programmes at block level and village levels were being organised by these organisations in Ladakh and Kargil to make people aware of how changes would affect them.

"We were mobilising people but now we have been asked to withhold protests and talks have started and the Centre has assured time-bound results," Padma Stanzin, Student Leaf leader, told NDTV.

"We stated our four-point agenda in front of the ministry. The minister heard us patiently and has asked us to submit our demands in writing before next meeting," former Lok Sabha MP Thupstan Chhewang stated, adding the next meeting is scheduled to take place after the winter session of Parliament gets over.

"We would be submitting our written representations. We hope that the government would positively respond to the concerns of the people of Ladakh," political activist Sajjad Kargili stated.

Concerns over recent industrial policy were also shared with representatives of the Centre. "We want to be a part of discussions and development which is taking place in our region. This policy was brought without consulting us and is also not good for ecology of the region," stated Chewwang.

ABL and KDA - two groups were formed by the people of Ladakh in the two divisions of Leh and Kargil after the Himalayan region was carved from the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir as a union territory in August 2019.

ABL and KDA welcomed the decision of MHA for modifying the Terms of References and alsoinclusion of new members. The ABL and KDA members submitted various issues pertaining to protection of rights of Ladakh Residents, Fast Track Recruitment processes, strengthening of LAHDCs, Greater participation in the decision making etc.

Many in Leh, after initial jubilation over the abrogation of Article 370, rued over the decision and subsequently launched a mass movement seeking constitutional safeguards.

Both KDA and LAB are conglomerates of various social, religious and political bodies that are at the forefront of the people's movement seeking rights from the central government for the region.

In the absence of the rights guaranteed under Article 370 and 35 A, concerns amongst the locals grew over the status of land and jobs and also over the fragile ecosystem of the mountain region that the locals believe faces exploitation in the absence of such rights.

The LAB and KDA had since planned a year-long protest to press for their demands.