Shutdown grips Ladakh as thousands march for statehood in freezing cold

The people expressed their discontent with what they perceived as unending bureaucratic rule in the Union Territory, saying that only full statehood where they are allowed to elect their representative.

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Ladakh witnessed a complete shutdown on Saturday, as thousands of men and women took to the streets, demanding statehood and constitutional protections under the sixth schedule for the Union Territory. The protest was jointly organised by the Leh Apex Body and the Kargil Democratic Alliance.

The protest took place in freezing temperatures. The protesters frequently shouted slogans demanding Ladakh's statehood, implementation of the sixth schedule, and the establishment of separate parliamentary seats for Leh and Kargil districts.

Why citizens of Ladakh are against center?

Despite the Centre's announcement of a second round of talks with representatives from the Leh Apex Body and Kargil Democratic Alliance, the region stood still in solidarity with the protesters. Earlier, the center constituted a high-powered committee, led by Minister of State (Home Affairs) Nityanand Rai, to address the demands put forth by the people of Ladakh.

The people expressed their discontent with what they perceived as unending bureaucratic rule in the Union Territory, asserting that only full statehood where they are allowed to elect their representative. The call for statehood gained momentum over the past two years, with the people of Leh and Kargil jointly voicing their opposition against what they viewed as political disenfranchisement by the Centre.

What has changed in past two years?

In December, the Centre initiated its first meeting in Ladakh, urging representatives from Leh and Kargil to submit their demands. The region became a separate Union Territory in August 2019 after the abrogation of Article 370, which led to the bifurcation and downgrade of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories.

Over the last two years, residents of Leh and Kargil felt a sense of political disempowerment which prompted their collective uprising against the Centre. The protests, occurring over the last two years, emphasise the locals' demand for statehood and constitutional guarantees to safeguard their land, employment, and distinct identity, rights which they enjoyed under Article 370.