In September 2020, the People’s Movement for the Sixth Schedule for Ladakh passed a resolution stating that they would boycott Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council elections till the Union Territory of Ladakh was granted all constitutional safeguards under the Sixth Schedule.
Ladakh was previously part of Jammu and Kashmir State and operated under Article 370. Article 370 and 35A granted Ladakh significant administrative autonomy. However, after Article 370 was repealed and Ladakh became a Union Territory, it lost its autonomy. Political leaders in Ladakh now fear that its social, cultural, ethnic, linguistic identity is now threatened.
Article 244 of the Indian Constitution along with the Sixth Schedule provide for significant autonomy to tribal areas. A tribal area listed in the Sixth Schedule, through Autonomous District Councils, can make laws, administer justice and regulate finance and licensing. Speaking in the Constituent Assembly, B.R Ambedkar stated that the creation of these autonomous districts was for the sole purpose of the satisfaction of the tribal people living in those areas. An area that is listed in the Sixth Schedule allows its inhabitants to preserve their indigenous culture, and identity and allow them to have control over their lands.
After the Constitution came into effect, many areas were added to the Sixth Schedule, these include specific areas of Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram. Until now, States have only lobbied/asked for specific areas of the State to be listed under the Sixth Schedule. The Ladakhi claim is unique in that it is the first where the Sixth schedule status is being asked for an entire state (Union Territory). A committee headed by the Minister of State for Home Affairs is to be constituted to find an appropriate solution to the issue. The Government however, does not seem keen to accept this demand fearing that other tribal dominated States might demand the same. In such a scenario, if whole States are listed under the Sixth Schedule and become autonomous in significant ways, how would this affect Indian federalism?