Ladakh leaders urge Centre to protect their ethnic identity, demand tribal-area status

[dropcap]A[/dropcap]FTER the cancellation of special status of Jammu and Kashmir and its bifurcation into two Union Territories, several prominent leaders of Ladakh including Lok Sabha MP Jamyang Tsering Namgyal have urged Centre to declare the region a tribal area under Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.

Stressing that the region is a predominantly tribal area with tribals making up to 98 per cent of its population, the leaders have feared change in the region’s demography, which is likely to endanger their cultural identity.

The leaders said that prime concern for people of Ladakh region is to protect their land and identity.

Chief Executive Councillor Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC) Gyal P Wangyal and Councilor LAHDC Kargil Stanzin Lakpa accompanied by several other leaders gave a memorandum to Union Minister for Tribal Affairs Arjun Munda on Saturday.

The written representation demanded that Ladakh be declared as tribal area under the Article 244 of Indian Constitution, bringing it under the provision of sixth schedule to ensure inclusive development of the region in accordance with the aspiration of 98 percent of tribal population of Ladakh.

Renuka Singh, MOS Tribal Affairs, MP Ladakh Jamyang Tsering Namgial, deputy chairman LAHDC Tsering Sandup, all the executive councillors among other prominent citizens of Ladakh were present in the meeting.

On the occasion, Wangyal appraised the ministers that “Ladakh never received the facilities, incentives and other tribal rights which the region deserves being a tribal area with its distinct culture identity and inhospitable topography.”

Welcoming the government move to declare Ladakh as separate Union Territory, he stressed on protecting fragile ecology and unique identity of Ladakh besides land rights of the people.

Ladakh MP Namgyal requested Union Minister Munda to declare Ladakh a tribal area under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution—which provides for the administration of tribal areas in the states of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, and Mizoram after setting up autonomous district and regional councils, in accordance with Articles 244(2) and 275(1).

Currently, tribal-dominated areas in four states including Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, and Mizoram are called “tribal areas” under Schedule Six of the Constitution.

Earlier, Aadi Mahotsav (National Tribal Festival) a joint initiative of the Tribal Affairs Government of India and Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India, Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Government of India was inaugurated by Union Minister Munda in Leh.

The nine day Mahotsav is Centre’s first mega event aimed at boosting tribal economy in Ladakh after government move to separate the region from rest of the state and make it a Union Territory.

Pertinently, residents of Kargil district are already up in arms against the scrapping of special status of the state and its bifurcation into two Union Territories.

There are reports of indefinite prohibitory orders imposed in Kargil, Drass and Sankoo areas to maintain law and order. The district administration has also directed schools and colleges in the area to remain closed till further orders.