- It’s almost five years since the special status granted to Jammu & Kashmir in the form of Article 370 and 35(a) was annulled by the Union Government. We know how the J&K and Ladakh were made Union Territories with a promise to restore statehood once the issue was addressed satisfactorily. Especially the concerns about the law-and-order situation spiraling out of control were to be addressed effectively. To its credit, the Union Government has succeeded in not only curbing the administrative challenge of the decision but also ensuring the people were brought around with the imposition of the move. As is its wont, Pakistan attempted to raise the bogey of India’s unilateral decision at every international forum but was thwarted, nonetheless.
PC: The Economic Times
- Of course, the opposition political parties and the concerned stakeholders of the region are voicing opinions to kickstart the process of holding elections after the necessary groundwork is completed in all respects. The SC while upholding the repealing decision of the Union Government had categorically mentioned conducting the assembly elections in J&K in a stipulated timeframe. Recently, massive weekend protests in Ladakh demanding statehood warrant immediate attention from New Delhi. Having been hived off from erstwhile J&K state, Ladakhis now feel robbed of their democratic rights. While J&K became a Union Territory with a legislative assembly, there was also a political promise of restoring statehood for the new J&K.
- However, Ladakh today is a UT without an assembly. Mind you, Ladakh welcomed UT status initially. There had long been a demand for treating Ladakh separately from J&K. Governance from Srinagar was resented and Ladakhis alleged discrimination in matters of services and representation. Further, they now allege bureaucratic rule with Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Councils under New Delhi’s Lieutenant-Governor. This has led to comparisons with the earlier situation where Ladakh had four members in J&K’s assembly and two in the legislative council. Diminished representation now has led to fears that outsiders will decide for Ladakh. There are also concerns the region could see an influx of large numbers of migrants.
PC: India Legal
- This has also brought Muslim-majority Kargil and Buddhist-majority Leh on a common platform to make four demands – statehood, inclusion of Ladakh in the Sixth Schedule, job reservation for locals, and a parliamentary seat each for Leh and Kargil. Add to this Ladakh’s sensitive Himalayan geography. There are fears top-down industrialization and infra-development in the region could lead to environmental disasters. That Ladakh shares borders with China and Pakistan makes the situation even more delicate. Thus, elections to J&K assembly must be expedited, followed by restoration of statehood. And for Ladakh, a middle path should be a UT with an elected legislature. New Delhi should move ahead with this without any further delay.