The ministries of home, law and tribal affairs and the National Commission of Scheduled Tribes have “broadly” agreed to a proposal to recommend “tribal area” status for Ladakh, a senior official of the NCST has said. Internal discussions took place among representatives of the ministries and the commission on September 4 to understand the issue, the official said.
“Broadly, everyone has agreed to the proposal of recommending tribal area status for Ladakh. A discussion on various provisions of the Fifth and the Sixth Schedule took place during the meeting. A final call will be taken on the matter on September 11,” the official said.
The meeting came amid a growing demand from leaders in Ladakh for according “tribal area” status to the region.
The Sixth Schedule provides for the administration of tribal areas in the states of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, and Mizoram after setting up autonomous district and regional councils.
Though Ladakhis welcomed the Centre’s decision to revoke the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, and make Ladakh a Union territory, they fear an influx of outsiders would lead to a change in the region’s demography, jeopardising their culture and identity.
The commission had earlier said it was also seeking to know why none of the Union territories with a predominantly tribal population, be it Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep or Dadra and Nagar Haveli, has been declared tribal area.
The case of Lakshadweep, where tribals make up around 95 per cent of the population, could be taken up later, the official said.
In a memorandum to Tribal Affairs Minister Arjun Munda in August, BJP MP from Ladakh, Jamyang Tsering Namgyal, had said the region is a predominantly tribal area with tribals making up to 98 per cent of its population.
“After the Centre announced its decision to make Ladakh a Union Territory, the biggest concern of the tribal population here is to protect its identity, culture, land and economy,” he had said.
Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council Chairman Gyal P Wangyal had also told the minister that “now their only demand is that Ladakh be brought under the Sixth Schedule so that their land remains protected”.
According to Article 244 and the sixth schedule, tribal-dominated areas in four states - Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, and Mizoram - are called “tribal areas”, which are technically different from the “scheduled areas” under the Fifth Schedule.
While executive powers of the Union extend in scheduled areas with respect to their administration in the Fifth Schedule, the Sixth Schedule areas remain within the executive authority of the state.