MHA invites LAB, KDA for talks in New Delhi on June 19

Viplav's deputation extended

Stalled dialogue to resume after 21 months

Sanjeev Pargal
JAMMU, June 1: Nearly a week after Ladakh representatives announced that they were ready for talks with the Centre, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has invited Leh Apex Body (LAB) and Kargil Democratic Alliance (KDA) for talks in New Delhi on June 19. The twin bodies spearheading agitation in Ladakh in support of their four-point agenda have accepted the invitation and a total of six representatives–three each from the two bodies–will go for talks.
This is after 21 months that stalled dialogue between MHA with LAB and KDA is being resumed. Last official talks between MHA and representatives of the two bodies were held in Leh on August 29, 2021. Union Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai had held the talks.
Officials told the Excelsior that Nityanand Rai, who heads High Powered Committee (HPC) on Ladakh issues, will lead the talks along with senior officers of the Home Ministry dealing with Jammu and Kashmir & Ladakh Affairs. However, it will not be the HPC meeting as initially the MHA will talk to six representatives from Ladakh and if the agenda is finalized, the HPC meeting may be called.
Six representatives who will proceed to New Delhi to attend June 19 meeting are Thupstan Chhewang, a two-time Lok Sabha member from Ladakh, Chering Dorjey and Nawang Rigzin Jora, both former Cabinet Ministers in erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir State, all from LAB and Qamar Ali Akhoon, also a former Cabinet Minister in previous J&K Government, Haji Asgar Ali Karbalaie, ex MLA and Sajjad Kargili, all from KDA.
“Initially, the MHA proposed the meeting on June 12. However, it was later deferred to June 19 on the request of LAB and KDA due to their preoccupation with last rites of prominent religious leader,” sources said.
When contacted, LAB chairman Thupstan Chhewang said they will go with open mind for the talks and will try to set agenda which they have already announced. He said it was good that the MHA has decided to resume the talks which were stalled for past quite some time now.
Four-point agenda listed by the LAB and KDA include Statehood, Sixth Schedule, two Parliament seats and employment opportunities for Ladakh.
Union MoS Home Nityanand Rai had last held meeting with LAB and KDA during his visit to Leh on August 29, 2021 and assured constitution of a Committee for further talks. Though backchannel talks were held on a couple of occasions between MHA representatives and senior LAB leader, it was on January 4, 2023 that the MHA formally set up the High Powered Committee headed by Rai which drew flak from LAB and KDA as in its agenda their major demands like Statehood and Sixth schedule status to Ladakh were missing.
Both the organizations had announced boycott of the HPC.
As per the MHA order, the HPC headed by Nityanand Rai as Chairman will have Lieutenant Governor of Ladakh, Jamyang Tsering Namgayal, MP Ladakh, Chairpersons-cum-CECs of LAHDC Leh and Kargil, Joint Secretary, Department of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh Affairs in MHA, Director/ Deputy Secretary (Ladakh), Department of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh Affairs, MHA as Member Secretary and one nominated member from MHA.
The HPC had five members of LAB and four from KDA.
They include Thupstan Chhewang, Chairman LAB and president LBA, Nawang Rigzin Jora, former Minister and president, Territorial Congress Committee Ladakh, Ashraf Ali Barcha, president, Anjuman-e-Islamia; Shia body, Leh, Acharya Stanzin Wangtak, president, All Ladakh Gompa Association and Kushok Thiksey alias Nawang Chamba Stanzin alias Thiksey Rinpoche, Leh, all from LAB and Asgar Ali Karbalaie, co-chairman KDA and Working President Territorial Congress Committee, Ladakh, Qamar Ali Akhoon, co-chairman KDA and senior NC leader, Sajjad Kargili, social activist and representative, Islamia School Kargil and Tsewang Nurboo, president LBA Kargil.
Composition of the HPC was also objected by the LAB and KDA which said the members were included by the MHA on its own. Later, the twin bodies had given names of their representatives for inclusion in the HPC.
The BJP has distanced itself from the LAB and KDA demand for grant of Statehood to Ladakh on the ground that UT was long pending demand of the people of Ladakh which was met by the BJP on August 5, 2019 while bifurcating erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir.
Recently, Lok Sabha Member from Ladakh and BJP leader Jamyang Tsering Namgayal had stated that Sixth Schedule will weaken the twin Hill Development Councils of Leh and Kargil, a charge contested by the LAB and KDA in their joint meeting at Kargil on May 23.
There were reports that the MHA proposed to strengthen the Hill Councils and through them want to give rights for protection of land, culture, heritage etc in Ladakh.