Movement withdraws poll boycott call as Shah assures all safeguards for Ladakh people

Election date extended to Oct 22, nominations till Oct 3

Union MoS Home, delegation to reach Leh today

Sanjeev Pargal
JAMMU, Sept 27: Newly floated People’s Movement today withdrew the call to boycott Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC) Leh elections as Union Home Minister Amit Shah assured a three-member delegation of the Movement that the Government of India is committed to empower the Hill Councils of Leh and Kargil and would safeguard interests of the people of the UT of Ladakh.

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Immediately after the Movement announced end of boycott call, Secretary Election Department Ladakh Saugat Biswas revised the election schedule as tomorrow was last date for filing nomination papers and not even a single paper had been filed so far due to the boycott call.
The LAHDC Leh elections will now be held on October 22 instead of October 16 as announced earlier while last date for filing nominations which was September 28 has been extended till October 3. Nominations will be scrutinized on October 5 and they can be withdrawn till October 7. Counting will be held on October 26 and entire process of election will be over before October 30.
Confirming breakthrough and withdrawal of call for boycott of elections, Movement leader and two-time Lok Sabha MP from Ladakh Thupstan Chhewang told the Excelsior from New Delhi on telephone that the Union Home Minister has promised all Constitutional safeguards to the people of Ladakh enshrined in the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution of India either by implementing the Sixth Schedule or in any other form. The decision will, however, be taken in consultations with representatives from Leh and Kargil.
Chhewang said the Union Home Ministry has also agreed to empowerment of Hill Development Councils of Leh and Kargil, which was one of the demands projected by the delegation.
To address the people of Ladakh, Union Minister of State for Home GK Reddy along with three Movement leaders—Thupstan Chhewang, Skyabje Thiksay Khanpo Rinpochey, former Rajya Sabha member and Chhering Dorjay Lakrook, former Minister who were in the Union capital for last two days, is proceeding to Leh where he will meet more Ladakhi leaders and assure them that their concerns have been addressed.
It has been decided between the Home Ministry’s delegation and Movement leaders that 15 days after completion of LAHDC Leh election process, a large delegation of Ladakh comprising representatives from both Leh and Kargil districts will initiate talks in which the issues raised by the Movement will be addressed.
“We are satisfied with outcome of talks. The Home Minister is committed to our demands with sincerity. We will press for implementation of Sixth Schedule of the Constitution of India in Ladakh. If they (the Centre) has any problems in amending the Constitution, all safeguards enshrined in the Sixth Schedule will be extended to Ladakh,” Chhewang said.
The Domicile Law like Jammu and Kashmir will not be applied to Ladakh, he added.
An official statement released by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs at a joint press conference addressed by Union Minister of State for Home GK Reddy, Union Minister of State for Sports Kiren Rijiju and all three delegation members from Ladakh in New Delhi said the delegation was assured that all issues related to language, demography, ethnicity, land and jobs will be considered positively and taken care of.
“Dialogue between a larger Ladakhi delegation comprising representatives from Leh and Kargil districts under the aegis of People’s Movement for Constitutional Safeguard under VITH Schedule and Union Home Ministry would commence after 15 days of the culmination of LAHDC Leh elections. Any decision so reached in this connection would be in consultation with the representatives from Leh and Kargil,” the MHA statement said.
It said the Union Home Minister assured the delegation that Government of India is committed to empower the LAHDCs of Leh and Kargil and would safeguard interests of the people of the UT of Ladakh. It would explore all avenues towards this objective.
“The Government of India is open to discuss protection available under the 6th Schedule of Constitution of India while looking into issues related to Ladakhi people. The delegation has agreed to withdraw its call for the boycott of ensuing LAHDC Leh elections and promised wholesome support to smooth conduct of these elections,” the statement added.
Chhewang said after the abrogation of Article 370, which gave special status to J&K, people of Ladakh have some apprehensions about their future, land, culture and jobs since there is no longer any legislative body there.
“After creation of the UT, people thought that the autonomous bodies will be empowered. Unfortunately, the kind of work should have been done, did not happen. COVID pandemic also played a role,” he said.
“Many people thought that powers of the autonomous bodies have been curtailed. There have been strong feelings of unhappiness. We were worried that such unhappiness among the youths should not go in wrong way,” he said.
The Peoples Movement for Constitutional Safeguard Under Sixth Schedule for Ladakh, he said, has been seeking the empowerment of the autonomous bodies similar to the Bodo Territorial Council in Assam under the 6th schedule of the constitution.
The former MP said after their meeting with the Home Minister, they now think that their apprehensions will be addressed and people’s rights protected.
At the press conference, Chhewang said people of Ladakh have been doing their best for the security of the nation since 1947 and even helping the Indian Army now when China is trying to make incursions in Ladakh.
He praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh for taking “proactive” steps during the current standoff with China, and said no Government in the past has taken such decisions.
“When the Indian Army was facing difficulties to send ration to some of the heights it has captured, the people of Ladakh voluntarily delivered the ration to these posts. Because of the sacrifice the people of Ladakh have been making since 1947, there has been expectation that the Central Government would sympathetically resolve the problems of Ladakh,” he said.
The former MP also said their agitation should not be linked with issues of the Kashmir valley and they were also not in favour of a domicile law similar to UT of Jammu and Kashmir.
Rijiju said the provision of the 6th Schedule and other provisions of the Constitution will be looked into to allay the apprehensions of the people of Ladakh and protect their rights
On September 22, the recently floated People’s Movement for Constitutional Safeguard of Sixth Schedule for Ladakh announced the boycott of the upcoming elections to LAHDC Leh.
The LAHDC Leh elections were first such exercise in the region after Ladakh was carved out from Jammu and Kashmir and granted the Union Territory status on August 5 last year following the abrogation of special status to the erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir.
When Jammu and Kashmir was bifurcated into two UTs, it was announced that the UT of Jammu and Kashmir would have a Legislative Assembly but UT of Ladakh would not have any Legislature.