Kargil Democratic Alliance, Leh group observe bandh seeking Ladakh Statehood

Protesters claim bureaucratic rule has eroded people’s political empowerment.

Published : Nov 02, 2022 16:28 IST

At the protest rally in Ladakh on November 2, 2022.

At the protest rally in Ladakh on November 2, 2022. | Photo Credit: SAJJAD KARGILI/TWITTER

The Kargil Democratic Alliance (KDA) together with the Leh Apex Body (LAB), a collective of several trade unions, tourist bodies, and religious and political groups, observed a Ladakh bandh on November 2 to press for their core demands, including Statehood for the Union Territory, which was carved out of the erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir in 2019.

The shutdown is the first of a series of street protests and agitations planned for the next two years, said the KDA, adding that there was a need for more meaningful representation of the people of Ladakh and their political empowerment. The KDA and the LAB apex body claim to represent the majority voice in Ladakh and sees the current Union Territory status sans a legislative assembly as political marginalisation.

The charter of demands of the KDA and the LAB include Statehood for Ladakh, inclusion of Ladakh under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution, and increasing the number of Lok Sabha members from one to two, besides representation of Ladakh in the Rajya Sabha.

Mustafa Haji, an advocate in the Jammu & Kashmir High Court, told Frontline that unemployment in the Union Territory was high and pleas for speedy recruitment had fallen on deaf ears. “We are facing huge unemployment and our youths have been left to fend for themselves,” Haji said, adding that after Ladakh was separated from Jammu & Kashmir, the people felt even more politically disempowered.

The sentiment was echoed by social activist Sajjad Kargili. Speaking to Frontline, he said: “Earlier, there were safeguards for our lands, identity, culture and jobs, but the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A ended them. Whereas we advocated Ladakh to be ruled by Ladakhis, a bureaucratic rule here has eroded whatever little participation and involvement the people had in the political processes and policy-making.” According to Haji and Kargili, the KDA and the LAB discussed their issues with the Ministry of Home Affairs on several occasions, but there were “only procastrinations rather than remedies”. The KDA and the LAB are planning street protests by students and unemployed youths on November 29.


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