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Leh shuts down to protest against BJP leader’s remarks on call to boycott hill council polls

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Srinagar: Leh observed a shutdown Thursday to protest against the remarks made by a senior BJP functionary on a resolution passed by a local group calling for boycott of elections to the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council.

The resolution to boycott the polls, scheduled to be held next month, was passed Tuesday by the Apex Body of People’s Movement for Sixth Schedule, a newly formed group comprising leaders of prominent local religious bodies and units of political parties, including the BJP, Congress and AAP.

The apex body has been demanding that Ladakh be brought under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution and provided constitutional safeguards on the lines of the Bodoland Territorial Council. It said they would boycott the polls until their demands are met.

The Sixth Schedule makes separate arrangements for tribal-designated areas, restricting ownership of land and government jobs to local residents only.

Senior BJP leaders, including general secretary Ram Madhav and J&K unit general secretary Ashok Kaul, are currently on a visit to Leh to discuss issues related to all local demands.

Kaul had, however, termed the apex body resolution “bakwas” (nonsense), saying it meant nothing, following which a prominent student body, the Ladakh Students’ Environmental Action Forum (LEAF), Wednesday held a demonstration outside the hotel where the BJP leaders are staying. Subsequently, a call for shutdown was given by the apex body.

Kaul, meanwhile, told ThePrint that his comments were “exaggerated”.

‘Will prepare action plan to counter BJP activity in Ladakh’

Former BJP Lok Sabha MP Thupstan Chhewang, who quit the party in 2018, told ThePrint that the poll boycott call still remains.

“The shutdown was observed successfully to protest the recent remarks made by senior BJP leaders. The poll boycott stays as it is. We will now strengthen our group and prepare an action plan to counter the BJP activity in the region,” he added.

Jigmet Paljor, LEAF president, said they held a peaceful demonstration “without violating” the Covid SOPs.

“All marketplaces remained shut today. This is a clear sign of what the people of the region want,” added Paljor, who was among the signatories to the apex body’s resolution.

The other signatories included Chhewang, former Rajya Sabha MP Thiksay Rinpochey, former J&K BJP minister Chhering Dorje Lakrook, Ladakh Congress president Nawang Rigzin Jora, Leh BJP president Nawang Samtan, and AAP’s Leh convener T. Phuntsog.

Talking to everyone, says BJP

The BJP finds itself in a tricky situation as its own head of the Leh unit is one of the signatories to the resolution.

Kaul, however, told ThePrint that they are talking to everyone and will come out with a decision soon.

“My comments were exaggerated but now we are in Leh and are talking to everyone. We are also talking to the central government and in a day or two, we will announce our decision,” Kaul said.

Asked about the local BJP leaders who are part of the apex body, Kaul said: “We are talking to them also. The discussions are ongoing.”

However, Chhewang said the BJP is yet to “approach” them.

“Since we moved the resolution to boycott the polls, no one from the BJP or the government has approached us to resolve the issue,” he said.

The print

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