Leh leaders decide to boycott LAHDC polls

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The political, social and religious leaders in Leh have decided to boycott Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council- Leh (LAHDC-Leh) elections that were announced by the UT administration of Ladakh on 19th September.

The notification issued by the election department said voting will take place on October 16 for the 6th LAHDC-Leh General Council.

The apex committee comprising almost all the political, social and religious leaders, formed to seek grant of constitutional safeguards under 6th schedule for protection of land rights and jobs for locals, met on Tuesday and held a threadbare discussion where they unanimously decided to boycott the upcoming LAHDC-Leh elections.

The special meeting was attended by the representatives of all the political parties, social and religious organisations including former Rajya Sabha Member Skyabje Thiksey Rinpochey, former MP Thupstan Chewang, former minister Chering Dorjey, President All Ladakh Gonpa Association Shatup Changa, President Ladakh Buddhist Association P. T Kunzang, President Anjuman Imamia Ashraf Ali, former minister and Congress president Ladakh Nuwang Rigzin Jora, district president BJP Leh Nawang Samstan, Convener Aam Aadmi Party Leh, T. Phumtsog, besides some other leaders.

“The apex body of People’s Movement for 6th schedule for Ladakh unanimously resolved to boycott the ensuing 6th LAHDC-Leh elections till such time the constitutional safeguard under 6th schedule on the lines of Bodo territorial council is not extended to UT Ladakh and its people,” a joint statement issued by the apex body said.

Surprisingly, Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) Leh, which was earlier in favour of the elections despite the opposition parties’ demand for postponement has now supported the poll boycott call till the constitutional safeguards under 6th schedule are not granted.

District president BJP unit Leh, Nawang Samstan, said their party is in support of the poll boycott call for LAHDC Leh elections announced by the apex body.

“This is in the interest of the people of Ladakh and we have to support this,” Samstan told the Greater Kashmir.

Talking to the Greater Kashmir over phone from Leh, convener Aam Aadmi Party Leh, T. Phuntsog, said all the leaders were of the opinion that participating in the elections at this time when the identity and demography of the region is under threat will be cheating with the people of Ladakh.

“I am of the firm opinion that holding elections of LAHDC Leh without extending the relevant provisions of the sixth schedule of our constitution, which empowers the councils by vesting it with legislative powers, is meaningless. The democratically elected council, representing the popular will of the people of Ladakh, cannot continue to be a toothless and irrelevant ostentatious body like it has been made to be so in the wake of the formation of UT Ladakh,” apex committee member and former minister Chering Dorjey told the Greater Kashmir.

Earlier, former chief executive councillor LAHDC-Leh Rigzin Spalbar had written a letter to the apex body, asking for a poll boycott.

He said participating in the elections and voting at a time when the demand for the grant of the sixth schedule has got an unprecedented overwhelming support “will not serve our cause.” “It is only in the best interest of the demand for the sixth schedule that we do not participate at all in the elections unless our demand is met,” he said.

The leaders in Leh have rejected the domicile law for Ladakh and urged people to support their demand for implementation of the sixth schedule.

The demand for the sixth schedule gained momentum after the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council Leh on September 3 passed a resolution demanding grant of constitutional safeguards under sixth schedule or Article 371 or domicile law of the constitution.

The Sixth Schedule of the Constitution makes separate arrangements for the tribal areas. Fearing settlements by outsiders in Ladakh after abrogation of Article 370 and Article 35A on August 5, 2019, people in the region are seeking tribal status to preserve demography, land, environment and unique culture.

Pertinent to mention that the leaders in Kargil district of Ladakh union territory are in favour of the pre-August 5 status for them.