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Day after Ladakh shutdown, its MP seeks 6th Schedule safeguards

The Sixth Schedule of the Constitution allows for greater political autonomy in some tribal areas in the North-East.

Written by Deeptiman Tiwary | New Delhi |
Updated: December 14, 2021 7:31:43 pm
Jamyang Tsering NamgyalBJP MP from Ladakh Jamyang Tsering Namgyal (PTI photo)

Ladakh needs safeguards for land, employment and cultural identity provided for by the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution, BJP member Jamyang Tsering Namgyal said in Lok Sabha on Tuesday.

The Ladakh MP’s demand came a day after the region observed a complete shutdown demanding statehood and protection for land and jobs.

On August 5, 2019, when the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir was stripped of its special status and bifurcated into two Union Territories, the representatives of Ladakh, including Namgyal, had welcomed the move.

On Tuesday, Namgyal said during Zero Hour: “When you (Speaker Om Birla) visited Leh recently and went to the Leh Council’s Secretariat as well, a demand was raised…  I urge the government to amend the Ladakh Hill Development Council Act, passed in 1997. It needs to be defined what will be the role and responsibility of the central government, the Union Territory administration and the Lieutenant-Governor… Along with this, (it needs to define) how the roles of gram panchayats and town councils will be streamlined with . The LAHDC Act also needs to be amended to grant Constitutional safeguards with regard to land, employment and cultural identity on the lines of certain regions in the North-East under the Sixth Schedule.”

The Sixth Schedule of the Constitution allows for greater political autonomy in some tribal areas in the North-East.

The last time Ladakh observed a similar shutdown over the Sixth Schedule and other demands was in August. This was followed by a meeting of Ladakh representatives with Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai. Namgyal, then, was absent.

The August bandh had come when Speaker Birla, along with a few Union ministers and BJP MPs, were in Leh for the third ‘Parliamentary Outreach Programme for Empowerment of Panchayati Raj Institutions’ in the new Union Territory.

The shutdowns — previous and the recent ones — had been called by the Leh Apex Body, of which Namgyal is a member, and the Kargil Democratic Alliance (KDA).

The apex body and the KDA are political, social, religious, trade and cultural organisations of Leh and Kargil districts, respectively. They were formed to push the demand for statehood to Ladakh and Constitutional safeguards to its people under the Sixth Schedule.

While they earlier had different stands on the issue of Union Territory status to Ladakh, both organisations joined hands on August 1 to seek full statehood with Constitutional safeguards.

In July, the KDA held a meeting with then Minister of State for Home G Kishan Reddy and even demanded revocation of the decisions on Article 370.

In January, the Home Ministry had announced it would form a committee under Reddy to find a solution to issues associated with preservation of Ladakh’s land, culture and language apart from demands from the region to have included under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.

In September 2019, right after the abrogation of Article 370 in the region, the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes recommended the inclusion of Ladakh under the Sixth Schedule. The Commission took note of the fact that the newly created Union Territory of Ladakh is predominantly a tribal region in the country. The total tribal population in Ladakh region is more than 97 percent.

The Commission also noted that “prior to creation of the Union Territory of Ladakh, people in Ladakh region had certain agrarian rights including right on land which restricted people from other parts of the country to purchase or acquire land in Ladakh”.

It had then said the Ladakh region is home to communities such as Drokpa, Balti and Changpa, all of whom have distinct cultures which need to be preserved and promoted.

Sixth Schedule Benefits

The Sixth Schedule of the Constitution — Articles 244(2) and 275(1) — has provisions for the administration of tribal areas in the border states of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram. Under the Sixth Schedule, autonomous districts and councils, administered by elected representatives, have a varying degree of autonomy to frame laws to protect the interests of tribal people. This is a demand that has been gathering momentum in Ladakh, too.

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