MHA ready to discuss Constitutional safeguards for Ladakh at HPC meet

Terms of Reference released ahead of talks

8 official members, 14 UT Reps to attend

Sanjeev Pargal

JAMMU, Dec 1: In a major development, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has agreed to discuss “Constitutional safeguards” for the people of the Union Territory of Ladakh, a major demand of Leh Apex Body (LAB) and Kargil Democratic Alliance (KDA), for which talks are scheduled to be held in New Delhi on December 4 under the chairmanship of Union Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai.
“A total of 22 members will be involved in the talks including 14 representatives of LAB and KDA (seven each) and eight Government functionaries which include Lieutenant Governor of Ladakh (Retd) BD Mishra whose participation in the talks depends on his return from the treatment,” officials told the Excelsior.
LAB and KDA have listed four-point agenda for the talks including Statehood for Ladakh, grant of Sixth Scheduled status, two Lok Sabha seats for the UT-one each for Leh and Kargil and employment opportunities including setting up of the Public Services Commission (PSC).
Terms of Reference of the Committee released by the MHA include discussion on measures to protect Ladakh’s unique culture and language taking into consideration its geographical location and strategic importance, ensure protection of land and employment for the people, measures for inclusive development and employment generation, steps related to empowerment of Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Councils, both Leh and Kargil and Constitutional safeguards that could be provided to ensure measures and protection listed in the agenda.
Officials said besides seven members each from LAB and KDA, there are eight official members now in the High Powered Committee (HPC) including the LG Ladakh, Lok Sabha Member Jamyang Tsering Namgyal, Chief Executive Councillors-cum-Chairpersons of Leh and Kargil Hill Development Council and MHA officials.
The HPC will be headed by Nityanand Rai.
Seven members from LAB who will attend the meeting include Thupstan Chhewang, ex MP and president Ladakh Buddhist Association, Chhering Dorjey Lakrook, former Cabinet Minister in erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir Government, Nawang Rigzin Jora, Congress president for Ladakh and ex-Cabinet Minister J&K, Tsering Wangdus, president, Ladakh Gonpa Association, Ashraf Ali Barcha, president, Anjuman Imamia Leh, Abdul Qayoom, president, Anjuman Moin-ul-Islam-Leh and Padma Stanzin, president Student Union-LEAF.
KDA leaders who will represent their organization in the talks among others include Asgar Ali Karbalai (co-chairman of KDA and working president of Territorial Congress Committee, Ladakh), Qamar Ali Akhoon (general secretary of NC, Kargil), Sajjad Kargili (representative of Islamia School, Kargil), and Sheikh Bashir Shakir (representative of IKMT).
The Ladakh representatives have also demanded constitution of the Public Service Commission (PSC) for Ladakh but said if it can’t be constituted, Ladakh should be included in the PSC of Jammu and Kashmir on the pattern of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh High Court.
However, they have stressed, the Ladakh Resident Certificate (LRC) should be made mandatory for all kind of recruitments.
Last meeting of the High Powered Committee was held in New Delhi on June 19 this year after which the LAB and KDA had decided that they will attend next meeting only if their agenda is included in the talks.
Though the Central Government had earlier ruled out Statehood for Ladakh but now the MHA has briefed LAB that all issues can be discussed in the meeting, the sources said, adding this has prompted LAB and KDA to accept the invite for talks.
After June 19 talks, another meeting of the HPC was delayed due to visit of Tibetan Spiritual Leader The Dalai Lama to Ladakh for nearly one and a half month followed by elections to the Kargil Hill Council.