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Ladakh’s Unrest UPSC NOTE

 Why did Ladakhis initially support the creation of a UT, and what led to the subsequent caution and anger?

  • Ladakh has experienced multiple shutdowns, marked by frequent street protests and demonstrations over the past four years after the region was carved out of Jammu and Kashmir as a separate UT.

  • This  leads to concerns among locals about the loss of identity, resources and bureaucratic overreach.

  • The growing resentment can be traced to August 2019 when the dilution of Article 370 abrogated the special status of the erstwhile State of J&K. 

  • Ladakh, which was then one of three divisions of J&K, was established as a UT without a legislature, unlike J&K. 

  • Ladakh had been represented by four members in the J&K Assembly and two in the Legislative Council before the abrogation. 

  • The Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Councils of Leh and Kargil, formed to administer the region, also have limited powers.

  • The reorganisation took Ladakhis by surprise.

  • Initially, there was optimism as religious minorities in the region had for long supported the demand for UT status, alleging discrimination at the hands of Kashmir-centric parties

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi asserted that a new era had begun in Ladakh

  • The jubilation, especially in Leh, however, soon gave way to caution, uneasiness and anger. Ladakhis worried that opening up the region to non-locals and industrialists would impact the region’s demography, eventually leading to the alienation and loss of distinct identity.

  • When they talk about mega solar power projects, thousands of acres of land are required, and it’s not like the land is lying unused — it sustains wildlife, medicinal herbs grow there and nomads keep migrating

  • A jobs crisis and lack of political representation added to the unrest.

  • These apprehensions led to a string of protests in the Muslim-majority Kargil which wanted to remain a part of the erstwhile State and not join the Buddhist-majority Leh. 

  • Civil society and religious outfits in Leh also felt vulnerable with the reorganisation taking away the protection enshrined under Article 35A.

  • Hundreds joined Mr. Wangchuk in his five-day hunger strike in January and a week-long ‘climatic fast’ in June last year

How has the reorganisation impacted the demography, ecology, and identity of Ladakh?

  • The reorganisation of Jammu and Kashmir in 2019, which carved out Ladakh as a separate Union Territory, has had significant impacts on its demography, ecology, and identity

  • Demographic shift: Concerns exist about potential changes in the region's demographics due to the relaxation of land ownership and domicile rules for outsiders

  • Ladakh's population is predominantly Buddhist, and some fear demographic changes could threaten their cultural and political influence.

  • Internal migration: Movement within Ladakh might increase, with residents from remote areas potentially migrating to urban centers like Leh for better access to resources and opportunities.

  • Population growth: Relaxed regulations could attract new residents, leading to potential strain on limited resources and infrastructure.

Ecology:

  • Increased development pressure: Infrastructure development projects to improve connectivity and tourism might pose risks to fragile ecosystems like cold deserts and high-altitude wetlands.

  • Resource management challengesIncreased population and economic activity could strain water resources and lead to waste management issues, requiring careful planning and sustainable practices.

  • Climate changeLadakh is highly vulnerable to climate change, and the reorganisation might make it harder to address these challenges due to potential complexities in coordination and resource allocation.

What are the demands put forth by LAB and KDA?

  • The LAB and KDA have demanded the government to extend Ladakh’s territorial control up to Gilgit-Baltistan in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) and demanded reservation of seats for the area. 

  • In a memorandum to the MHA, the alliance reiterated that Statehood will ensure stability in the region and highlighted the geopolitical importance of Ladakh to counter the twin threat of China and Pakistan. 

  • The other demand, for constitutional safeguards has served as a major rallying point, with the LAB

and KDA urging the government to grant special status to Ladakh on the lines of Mizoram, Tripura, Sikkim and other northeastern States. 

  • The Schedule protects tribal populations and provides autonomy to the communities through autonomous development councils

  • This assumes significance considering nearly 80% of Ladakh’s total population of 2.74 lakh are 

  • The Schedule will ensure that the local population is consulted on decisions that impact them.

How have unemployment and economic disempowerment fuelled the protests?

  • The separation from J&K shrunk the region’s share in the State pool, and the Centre has also failed to create new avenues for the locals in the past four years. 

  • Ever since Ladakh became a UT, there have been no gazetted job openings in the region.

  • While two batches have already been commissioned in J&K and the third batch is going to get commissioned soon.

  • Ladakh immediately needs to have a Public Service Commission of its own...,” Haji Ghulam Mustafa, legal adviser of the group, said.

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Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam: Ladakh’s Unrest UPSC NOTE
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