By Tenzin Sangmo
Union Home Minister Amit Shah moved the bifurcation proposal in the Parliament on Monday. (Photo-Reuters)
Leh, Aug 5: The granting of Union Territory status to Ladakh under the Center’s J&K re-organization bill introduced in Rajya Sabha today was welcomed by many Ladakhi people in Leh but there also appears to be a general apprehension about the lack of representation and the dissolution of the special status with the revoking of Article 370.
Statement of objects and reasons for the bill reads, “The Ladakh Division of the State of Jammu and Kashmir has a large area but is sparsely populated with very difficult terrain. There has been a long pending demand of people of Ladakh, to give it the status of a union territory to enable them to realize their aspirations. The UT of Ladakh would be without Legislature.”
Jamyang Tsering Namgyal, the newly elected young BJP MP from Ladakh, hailed the new development and thanked the ruling government and its leaders on behalf of people of Ladakh.
“Ladakh, for too long, had been given a step-motherly treatment by the Kashmir-centric state government in terms of funding, job opportunities and employment” and called the decision a harbinger of development.
He observed that it presents an opportunity for India to strengthen its border and national security as Ladakh is part of India that is situated in a sensitive border area.
Although locals acknowledge that it resolves the long-standing demand for UT pending for decades, they expressed fear that this would mean being at the mercy of central government as the union government will have the Law and order powers and policing in the new UTs.
Article 370 of the Constitution that granted special status to Jammu and Kashmir revoked by a resolution presented by the Home Minister on Monday attracted scathing criticism from the opposition, leaders in the valley and common people.
In scrapping Article 370, Ladakh loses the protective provisions granted under Article 35 A that gets scrapped as a subordinate article. It enables the state to define ‘permanent residents’ and protects certain rights, crucial ones being employment under state and acquisition of immovable property.
This lifts the ban on nonresidents to purchase land causing the local concerns that it would invite nonresidents to settle in Ladakh and negatively affect the Ladakhi way of life and its fragile ecosystem, already reeling under pressure from tourists’ footfall.
P. Chidambaram, former finance minister, currently serving as Rajya Sabha MP, called it the blackest day of the Indian constitution. “In repealing this article, you are unleashing forces which you cannot control,” he stated.
Yet most Ladakhi leaders in the region, across parties, hailed the decision and called it “historic,” viewing the concerns raised by others as minor glitches that can be fixed.
Former MP from Ladakh Thupstan Chewang lauded Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah for the historic and courageous step of abrogation of Article 370 and announcement of the UT status for Ladakh.
A section of a young activist in Leh celebrating the granting of UT status is hopeful that someday Ladakh will become “UT with Legislature” like J&K, have tribal law, or protected and restricted area status applied.