Demand by Ladkhis for Sixth Schedule of the Constitution has led to a prolonged bargaining between the Union Home Ministry and local leaders of a popular movement in the region. The Sixth Schedule of the Constitution safeguards rights of the tribal population. Currently, it is applicable in tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram. This special provision is granted under Article 244(2) and Article 275(1) of the Constitution.
Both the Centre and Ladakhi leaders are well-aware of the problem. While, leaders of the ‘People’s Movement for Sixth Schedule for Ladakh’ believe that their demand is justified, the Central government is sympathetic to their cause but is worried that it might lead to other regions of the nation demanding same for them.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah met leaders of the UT on September 26, 2020, and January 5, 2021. He also set up a committee under his junior colleague G. Kishan Reddy for the purpose. However, in 2020 the BJP-led Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council, Leh (LAHDC-Leh) passed a resolution which proposed three options –Sixth Schedule, Article 371 or a domicile law for the UT.
BJP’s regional wing, was aware of Ladakh’s demand and so on September 22, 2020 its Leh district president, Nawang Samtan, signed a resolution along with other leaders to boycott 6th LAHDC-Leh election until government provides 6th schedule for Ladakh. Amit Shah assured leaders that he’ll “walk an extra mile” to resolve their problems. Leaders dropped their call to boycott the elections.
The problem which Ladakh faces is that while it has been granted UT status which is long desired, but it has lost all the privileges which it used to enjoy as a part of the erstwhile state of J&K. People of Ladakh worry that outside interference will cause damage to its social, cultural, ethnic, linguistic and environmental identity. That’s why People’s Movement for Sixth Schedule for Ladakh enjoyed such a huge local support.
The movement for sixth schedule also drew its inspiration from recommendations of the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes which after consultations with the ministries of Home, Tribal Welfare and Law and Justice on September 11, 2019, recommended that the Union Territory of Ladakh should come under the purview of Sixth Schedule of the Constitution. The commission noted that bringing the UT under sixth schedule will help in preserving culture of the region, protect agriculture rights and will be helpful in development of Ladakh at a faster pace.
The Commission also described Ladakh “a predominantly tribal region”.