Ladakh's Quest For Sixth Schedule Status
Ladakh's Quest For Sixth Schedule Status

Locals in the Leh district of Ladakh observed a complete shutdown on Saturday to demand statehood for Ladakh, the inclusion of Ladakh in the sixth schedule of the Constitution, giving it a tribal status, job reservation for locals, and a parliamentary seat each for Leh and Kargil. The protest was massive, and it was called by the Leh Apex Body (LAB) and Kargil Democratic Alliance (KDA). Sonam Wangchuk, leading the cause, has announced the launch of a fast unto death, pressing the popular demand of the Ladakhi people.

This comes after the organisations submitted a memorandum to the Union Home Ministry on 23rd January, demanding statehood for Ladakh and protection under the Sixth Schedule.

The Union Territory is seeking constitutional protection under the sixth schedule, which provides safeguards for tribal rights such as the formation of autonomous district councils; these councils have some legislative, judicial, and administrative autonomy within the state.

Tribal Protection Under Indian Constitution

Two schedules in our Constitution provide protection for tribals. These are the 5th and the 6th schedules of the Indian Constitution.

India’s scheduled tribes constitute 8.6% of the population and are spread over a total geographical area covering 11% of Indian landmass. These tribes are distributed in 10 states, which are Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Odisha, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Himachal Pradesh. 

The provisions of the Fifth Schedule under Article 244(1) cover these regions of the country populated by tribals, known as Scheduled Areas, and grant protection to these areas and their inhabitants.

The Sixth Schedule, covered under Article 244(2)of the Constitution, provides legislative, administrative, judicial, and financial powers in the Tribal Areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura, where autonomous district councils/ hill councils are formed to administer the area in tandem with local customs and traditions.

These councils can have up to 30 members who have a term of five years. The council can make laws, rules and regulations with regard to land, water, forest, agriculture, village councils, health & sanitation,policing in villages and towns, marriage and divorce, inheritance, social customs and mining, etc.

The criteria for designating an area as a Scheduled Area include a significant population of tribal people, compactness, reasonable size, viability as an administrative unit, and economic underdevelopment compared to neighbouring areas. The Bhuria Commission of 2002 suggested that regions with 40% or more tribal populations, as per the 1951 Census, be considered as Scheduled Areas.


Why does Ladakh want to be part of the Sixth Schedule?

  • Tribal population: According to 2011 Census data, Ladakh has a total tribal population of 79.61%.
  • Local aspirations: After the repeal of Art. 370, which created two new UTs, there was enthusiasm among the Ladakhi people with respect to their rights.
  • Negligence in erstwhile J&K state: Buddhist-dominated Leh district had long demanded union territory (UT) status as it felt neglected by the former J&K state government.
  • A Legislature: Ladakh wants its own legislature to formulate laws and administer the region.
  • Inadequate representation: The administration of the region is now completely in the hands of bureaucrats with only 1 MP.
  • New domicile criteria: The new domicile policy in Jammu and Kashmir has sparked concerns about land, employment, demography, and cultural identity.
  • Statehood demands: A group of social, religious, and political representatives from Leh and Kargil have jointly demanded full statehood for Ladakh.

Can Ladakh be included in the Sixth Schedule?

The National Commission for Scheduled Tribes recommended the inclusion of Ladakh under the Sixth Schedule in September 2019. 

It was predominantly tribal (more than 97%), people from other parts of the country had been restricted from purchasing or acquiring land there, and its distinct cultural heritage needed preservation.

Legal Hurdles in Implementation

  • Exclusivity of the 6th Schedule: The Constitution mentions it very clearly, Sixth Schedule is for the Northeastern states. For tribal areas in the rest of the country, the Fifth Schedule provisions apply.
  • Exclusive provision for NE: Notably, no region outside the Northeast has been included in the Sixth Schedule.

Needs a Constitutional Amendment: For a state to be included in the 6th schedule, a Constitutional amendment is required, which is a decision of the union government.

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Andrew has been in the online publishing industry. After receiving his degree in professional journalism from the Indian Institute of Journalism and New Media, he contributed to multiple websites as a freelance writer and feature editor. Mostly, Andrew tackles controversies and theories that lead to a specific conclusion that either debunk or justify a particular claim. Further, Andrew participates in social developments that aim to simplify every individual's way of life and fight for peace. He is the new Editor-in-Chief of Pressroom Today.


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