A massive, but entirely peaceful, demonstration was held in Leh on Sunday, January 12, by Ladakhi students demanding self-government within the provisions of the 6th schedule in the Indian constitution. Schedule 6 allows the government to form autonomous district councils to administer areas that have already been given autonomy within their states.

The Main Bazaar in Leh
The Main Bazaar in Leh (Photo by Christopher Michel in Wikimedia, Creative Commons license)

According to the Wikipedia, 10 districts in Northeast India have been designated as 6th Schedule areas but the Leh and Kargil districts of Ladakh, which also have been designated as autonomous, have not been given self-government. So the students, who had been protesting quietly in a tent camp at Leh’s Old Bus Stand, decided to publicize their demands more dramatically.

A newspaper from that region of India published an article referring to the protest march the students organized as the “first of its kind [a] unique peaceful procession.” The dramatic protest in Leh , which included singing of folk songs, ended at the Balkhang Chowk Main Bazaar in the small city. There, the students performed a skit to dramatize the importance of the 6th Schedule for Ladakhis.

The event was organized under the banner of the group Students Organization of Unified Ladakh (SOUL). The President of SOUL, Rigzin Dorjay, released a song he had composed for the occasion about the need for the 6th Schedule to be implemented.

Rural students dancing at a village school function in the Puga Valley of the Chang Tang region, southeastern Ladakh
Rural students dancing at a village school function in the Puga Valley of the Chang Tang region, southeastern Ladakh. (Screenshot from the video “Ladakh ‘Six Souls of Puga: The Wind of Change’” Documentary Film Part 2, by Chamba Kaysar on YouTube, Creative Commons license)

Stanzin Tsetan, an advisor to SOUL, commented to the reporter that the folk music and singing during the procession were important facets of the heritage of Ladakh. The organizers of the event wanted to showcase the Ladakhi traditions as well as their demand for Schedule 6.

A press release from SOUL indicated that the students planned to take Monday off and then resume their “chain hunger strike” demanding Schedule 6 on Tuesday the 14th.