UT Without a Legislature

With no legislature, land and jobs even after three years of being a UT, many Ladakhis feel cheated and betrayed.

On 21 January, Ladakh's top environmentalist Sonam Wangchuk took social media by storm by claiming that “All is not well in Ladakh’’.

The engineer-turned-education reformer made a fervent appeal to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to intervene and ‘‘safeguard eco-fragile Ladakh”.

Wangchuk concluded a five-day-long climate fast at 18,380 feet high Khardung La pass on February 1 to invite attention of the Union Government to address the demands of Ladakhis. But no response from the Centre.

However, on 27 January, Wangchuk was placed under house arrest at his institution in Leh by the administration, and was asked to sign the bond under Section 107 CRPC to ensure he wouldn't make any statement or participate in public meetings for a month.

In Jammu and Kashmir, hundreds of political leaders and activists including three former chief ministers were put behind bars for several months when the Government of India revoked the special status of the region.

The government apprehended a strong mass upsurge in the valley because of abolition of Article 370; however, it had no inkling about the depth of resentment in the Ladakh region.

On 5 August 2019, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government abrogated Article 370 of the Indian Constitution that granted special status to the erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir. The state was bifurcated into two UTs—Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh.

A separate UT was the long pending demand of the people of Leh and when the government finally granted it, they welcomed the decision and celebrated the UT status. But the Kargil district showed a strong resentment against parting ways from Jammu and Kashmir.

However, over three years down the line, people of both regions feel betrayed by the BJP, as they were expecting the UT to have legislature and protection of land and Jobs.

The demand of UT for Ladakh was indeed, a long pending demand; however, they were in favour of a UT with legislature.

“Article 370 was protecting their land and other rights but it's no longer there now”. They cannot get back what they have lost—special protection. Under the new arrangement they are going to lose their land. It is a matter of time that alienation of land will cause severe social unrest in the region. In truth the Ladakhis were better off with the special provisions under Article 370 which ensured that big business would not be able to exploit their resources. Earlier they had four MLAs in the State assembly of Jammu & Kashmir and now they have none. The Lieutenant Governor appointed by the Centre decides the fate of Ladakhis and rules Ladakh with iron fists.

The issue has united both the leaders from the Buddhist majority Leh and Muslim majority Kargil such that they are on the same page and have decided to launch a “massive agitation” if their demands aren’t fulfilled.

The Sixth Schedule was enacted in 1949, as per Article 244 of the Indian constitution. It was designed to protect the indigenous and tribal groups by establishing and functioning autonomous district divisions known as the autonomous district councils or ADCs.
Because of the sixth schedule, the indigenous and tribal groups in the north-eastern states have significant autonomy.

The Sixth Schedule grants considerable autonomy to tribal communities. The District Council and the Regional Council get the real power to make laws.

However, on 3 December 2019, the Govt made it clear that Ladakh may not fall under the sixth Schedule of the Constitution.

“The main demand was UT with the legislature but this didn't happen. Ladakh was a strong case for the 6th schedule because 90% population is tribal”.

The BJP promised the sixth schedule in the 2020 parliamentary elections and kept its manifesto but later backtracked and didn't even talk about it.


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Vol 55, No. 34, Feb 19 - 25, 2023