Ladakh gets new Lieutenant-Governor

Former Brigadier B.D. Mishra replaces R.K. Mathur.

Published : Feb 12, 2023 21:01 IST

Ladakh Lieutenant-Governor R.K. Mathur pays homage to martyrs at the Hall of Fame in Leh on January 26, 2023.

Ladakh Lieutenant-Governor R.K. Mathur pays homage to martyrs at the Hall of Fame in Leh on January 26, 2023. | Photo Credit: PTI

In a sudden but not entirely unexpected move, President Droupadi Murmu on February 12 announced the replacement of Ladakh’s Lieutenant-Governor, R.K. Mathur, with B.D. Mishra, the incumbent Governor of Arunachal Pradesh. The change of guard comes at a time when civil unrest over unemployment, land issues, and denial of several Constitutional safeguards for the Union Territory has peaked.

There was talk in Ladakh’s bureaucratic circles that when Home Minister Amit Shah chaired a high-level meeting on the security situation in Leh and Ladakh on December 28, 2022, he was presented with an unflattering report card of Mathur. There was consensus among the dissenting voices against Mathur that his public interactions did little to curtail the growing anger of the populace in Ladakh. Also, Mathur himself had apparently been citing deteriorating health conditions to higher-ups in New Delhi.

Mounting dissatisfaction

In recent months, the Kargil Democratic Alliance (KDA) and the Leh Apex Body (LAB), a collective of several trade unions, tourist bodies, and religious and political groups, have raised the pitch against the Centre, pressing for their core demands, including Statehood for the Union Territory, which was carved out of the erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir in 2019. On November 2, 2022, their joint call for a shutdown in Ladakh was quite successful.

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. The KDA and the LAB claim to represent the majority voice in Ladakh. Their string of protests over the past three months were staged in Leh, Kargil, and then Jammu. Their next round of protest is scheduled at New Delhi’s Jantar Mantar on February 15.

Sources told Frontline that Mathur’s habit of skirting the issue of public protests as well as the situation at the LAC had irked senior members of the bureaucracy, who had been sharing their apprehensions with the Home Ministry.

Mustafa Haji, an advocate with the Jammu and Kashmir High Court and core member of the KDA-LAB led civilian protests, told Frontline that there was an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty over the Chinese incursions but Mathur would simply not refer to these issues. “His focus was on facilitating individuals and organisations working in the fields of art and culture, and sports, and one must acknowledge the good work he did in those areas, but he was not willing to engage meaningfully with the protesters nor would he address the LAC issue,” Haji said over phone from Leh.

B.D. Mishra.

B.D. Mishra. | Photo Credit: PTI

B.D. Mishra is a former brigadier of the Army and a former Commander of the Counter Hijack Force of the National Security Guard (NSG), popularly known as the Black Cat Commandos. He led a surgical strike on a hijacked Indian Airlines aircraft at Raja Sansi Airfield, Amritsar, in April 1993 and rescued 126 passengers.

A senior source in Ladakh’s security apparatus told Frontline that Mishra (83) was “not particularly excited about his new posting and it is to be seen how long he stays”.

Sajjad Kargili, who earlier spoke to Frontline, said: “Earlier, there were safeguards for our lands, identity, culture, and jobs, but the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A ended them. We advocated that Ladakh be ruled by Ladakhis, but the bureaucratic rule here has eroded whatever little participation and involvement the people had in the political processes and policy-making.”

Siddiq Wahid, political commentator and historian, said: “Uncertainty is the last thing that is needed in Ladakh. Yet, that is exactly what this latest development is fuelling.”

Sign in to Unlock member-only benefits!
  • Bookmark stories to read later.
  • Comment on stories to start conversations.
  • Subscribe to our newsletters.
  • Get notified about discounts and offers to our products.
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide to our community guidelines for posting your comment