A united front has emerged in Ladakh, with both Buddhist and Muslim groups joining forces to demand statehood and special status for the region. This marks a significant escalation in the ongoing protests, with a “Kargil Bandh” (shutdown) and “Leh Chalo” (march to Leh) planned for Saturday to pressure the central government to address their concerns.

The Leh Apex Body, representing Buddhist groups, and the Kargil Democratic Alliance, representing Muslim groups, have issued a joint call to action. This unprecedented unity reflects the shared aspirations of Ladakh’s diverse communities for greater autonomy and control over their affairs.

Their demands include:

  • Statehood: Both groups advocate for Ladakh becoming a separate state within India, arguing that this will provide them with better representation and resources.
  • Special Status: They seek inclusion under the Sixth Schedule of the Indian Constitution, which grants special autonomy to certain tribal-majority areas.
  • Public Service Commission: Establishing a local commission would allow for fairer recruitment in government jobs.
  • Job Reservations: They demand job reservations for Ladakhi residents to ensure their equitable participation in the region’s development.
  • Early Recruitment Drive: Faster recruitment processes are sought to address unemployment concerns.
  • Parliamentary Representation: Separate seats in Parliament for Leh and Kargil districts are seen as crucial for stronger local representation.

This united action comes just a day after the central government announced a second round of talks with Ladakh representatives, scheduled for February 19 in Delhi. While this dialogue is welcomed, the planned protests highlight the urgency and determination of the Ladakhi people to see their demands addressed.

The success of Saturday’s protests will depend on the level of participation and the government’s response. If the government fails to offer concrete solutions, further escalation of protests and a potential boycott of the upcoming talks are possibilities.