ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Ladakhi Politics since the Formation of Union Territory

In just three and a half years after the formation of the union territory, the political class of Ladakh has given a new direction to its identity politics. From being fragmented on subregional and sectarian lines, it has become inclusive and seeks to represent the whole of Ladakh. The framing of demands has also taken a pronounced federal turn.

In February 2023, two Ladakh-based bodies—Leh’s Apex Body of People’s Movement for Sixth Schedule (LAB) and Kargil Democratic Alliance (KDA)—held protest demonstrations in Jantar Mantar at Delhi in support of their dem­ands, including those related to full statehood for Ladakh, constitutional safe­guard under the Sixth Schedule, increase in the number of members of Parliament (MPs) from Ladakh, etc. For a region where much celebration took place after the bifurcation of the state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) and grant of union territory status, such protest in Delhi seems to be puzzling. What is specifically perplexing is the response of Leh’s leadership. The poli­tical class here was single-mindedly focused on the demand for union territory status for a number of decades. Even when there was opposition to this demand in Kargil, Leh persisted with the demand. Now that this demand has been met and Ladakh has been reorganised as a union territory, discontent continues to be manifested not only in Kargil but also in Leh. Interestingly, overcoming their differences, political leadership both in Leh and Kargil have come together to launch a common struggle. Unprecedented deve­lop­ment as this is, it reflects a substantial change in the response of the political class in Ladakh. In fact, since the formation of the union territory, one finds substantial changes in the direction of Ladakhi politics and strategy. These changes can be summarised in the following way.

One, there is a drastic change in the very nature of Ladakhi identity politics. This identity politics till 2019 was exclusive and fragmented on subregional and sectarian lines. The political dem­ands of the two districts of Ladakh were quite divergent and reflected binary nat­ure of Leh-based Buddhist and Kargil-based Muslim identity politics. Now the Ladakhi identity politics has become ­inclusive and represents, for the first time, whole of Ladakh. In terms of Ladakhi aspirations and demands, a consensus has emerged for the first time.

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Updated On : 8th May, 2023
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