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Ladakhis Announce Key Demands for Talks With Federal Gov't

© AP Photo / Mukhtar KhanA nomad fetches water from a hand pump in remote Kharnak village in the cold desert region of Ladakh, India, Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022.
A nomad fetches water from a hand pump in remote Kharnak village in the cold desert region of Ladakh, India, Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022. - Sputnik India, 1920, 09.01.2023
India's federal government last week put together a committee to protect Ladakh's culture and language, in light of the region's geographical location and strategic importance.
Days after the Indian federal government put together a high-powered committee to deal with the issues of the Ladakhi people, political organizations based in the region stated their demands, which include statehood for Ladakh and the protection of land and job rights, as well as participation in ongoing talks with the federal government.
Since 2019, when the federal government separated Ladakh from the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir and made it into centrally governed union territory, multiple social, political and student organizations formed two alliances - the Leh Apex Body (LAB) and the Kargil Democratic Alliance (KDA) - which put forth demands of residents of Leh and Kargil, the two districts of the region.
The federal government had nominated members from both alliances to be part of the committee. However, the alliances seem to be unsatisfied with the composition and the mandate of the committee.
In a newly released statement, Ladakhis have now put forward four demands to be added to the agenda of the committee for the talks with federal government to go any forward. They have also announced that demonstrations will be held in both Jammu and New Delhi as they intensify their agitation.

What Are the Key Demands?

“We have rejected the committee in its current form. Secondly, unless our main agenda are not mentioned as key talking points, the discussion with the central government will not happen,” former Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) parliamentarian and vice president of the LAB Tsering Dorjey Lakruk told Sputnik.

Sajad Kargili, who represents the KDA and was named as a member of the committee said that “Ladakhis have four core demands which include statehood for Ladakh region, exclusive rights over government jobs, that land ownership be limited to locals only and finally, the creation of two separate parliamentary constituencies.”

Before 2019, when Ladakh was part of J&K and enjoyed a semi-autonomous status, government jobs and land ownership rights were reserved for locals only. Ladakh was also able to elect four members for the state legislative assembly and one member for the lower house of the Indian parliament, the Lok Sabha.
But after the federal revoked the special status of J&K and separated Ladakh, it was decided that the region would not have a local assembly. Instead, the federal government stated that it will make efforts to strengthen locally elected representative councils also known Hill Development Councils.
As a result, there have been demands from the local population, which have amplified over the last two years, prompting the formation of the committee headed by Nityanand Rai, the minister of state for Home Affairs. The committee, as stated by the federal government, will discuss with alliances the measures to protect Ladakh's culture and language, given the region's geographical location and strategic importance, ensure protection of land and employment for locals and the empowerment of local hill councils.

"The central government has shown the intent to protect interests of the people of Ladakh and will continue to do so," a senior government official told Sputnik, requesting anonymity.

However, Jigmet Paljor, a social activist in Ladakh told Sputnik that the more important issues that the Ladakhi population should be mentioned before any further talks are held with the federal government.
“We are not saying the committee is bad or good. But for it work and more forward our key demands have to be discussed and mentioned as agenda points”, said Paljor.
The views and opinions expressed by the speakers may not necessarily represent those of Sputnik.