All political and religious organisations in Ladakh on Tuesday unanimously decided to boycott the upcoming hill council elections over their demand for bringing the region under the ambit of provisions of the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution, PTI reported. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party is also a signatory to the declaration calling for a boycott, along with 11 other parties.

The elections for the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council, Leh, which is the district’s highest-elected body, are scheduled for October 16. This would be the first such exercise in the region since the Centre carved out the Union Territory of Ladakh from the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir on August 5 last year. The date for filing of nomination papers is from September 21 to September 28, followed by scrutiny to be held on September 29. The last date for withdrawal of nomination papers on October 1.

In a joint statement, a group representatives of political parties such as the Congress, Aam Aadmi Party and BJP, and leaders from different religious groups have unanimously decided to boycott the electoral exercise. The group, known as the Apex body of People’s Movement for 6th Schedule for Ladakh, was formed in August, when all religious and political groups joined hands to demand safeguards for the region.

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“The apex body of People’s Movement for sixth schedule for Ladakh, unanimously resolved to boycott the ensuing 6th LAHDC Leh elections till such time the constitutional safeguard under sixth schedule on the lines of Bodo Territorial Council is not extended to the UT Ladakh and its people,” veteran politician and former Lok Sabha MP Thupstan Chhewang said.

Chhewang, who resigned from the BJP in November 2018, expressed hope that the people of Leh would stay away from the polls. “We are confident that we will get full support from the entire population and our struggle will continue till our demands are met,” he said.

The other signatories include former MP Ps Skyabje Thiksey Khanpo Rinpochey and former Leh BJP president Chering Dorjey Lakrook. Lakrook had resigned from his post in May, after accusing the administration of failing to evacuate people of the Union Territory, who got stranded across the country amid the nationwide lockdown to contain the coronavirus pandemic.

Others who signed the resolution include president All Ladakh Gompa Association Shatup Chamba, president Anjuman Immamia Ashraf Ali Barcha, president Anjuman Moin-ul-Islam Abdul Qayum, president Christian Community Dechen Chamgha and president LEAF Jigmet Paljor.