Ladakh and the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution

  • A recent shutdown and protest demonstration in Ladakh urged that the newly constituted Union Territory (UT) be granted statehood and included in the Constitution’s Sixth Schedule.
  • This underlines a bigger issue of regional governance and autonomy.

The Centre’s offer to Ladakh representatives 

  • Includes Article 371-like protections. The MHA promised to extend Article 371-like protections to Ladakh, answering concerns voiced by the Leh Apex Body (ABL) and the Kargil Democratic Alliance (KDA).
  • Exclusion from the Sixth Schedule: While noting concerns, the administration chose not to include Ladakh in the Sixth Schedule, showing a different approach to regional issues.

Background about Ladakh’s Governance 

  • Following the repeal of Article 370, the region was recognised as a Union Territory. Following the abolition of Article 370, Ladakh was recognised as a separate Union Territory “without legislature,” similar to UTs such as New Delhi and Pondicherry.
  • Demand for Sixth Schedule Inclusion: Organisations such as ABL and KDA have lobbied for Ladakh’s inclusion in the Sixth Schedule, citing a desire for greater autonomy in governance. 

What is the sixth schedule?

  • Article 244 of Part X of the Constitution establishes a unique management structure for’scheduled regions’ and ‘tribal areas.’
  • The Fifth Schedule addresses scheduled territories and tribes in states other than Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, and Mizoram (ATM2).
  • The Sixth Schedule concentrates on the tribal areas of these four northeastern states.

Salient Features of Sixth Schedule:

(1) Autonomous Districts

  • Tribal regions are designated as autonomous districts under the state’s administrative authority.
  • The governor has the authority to organise and re-organize these districts, including boundary adjustments and separation into autonomous areas.

(2) District and Regional Councils:

  • Each district council consists of 30 members, both nominated and elected.
  • Regional councils do exist inside autonomous regions.
  • These councils administer the territories under their control, passing laws on specific issues with the governor’s approval.
  • They can form village councils or courts for dispute resolution, with specific competence over appeals.
  • District councils oversee a variety of infrastructure and services in local communities, including education and healthcare.
  • They also have the authority to levy taxes and control specific activity. 

(3) Laws Exemptions and Modifications:

  • Acts of Parliament or state legislatures may not apply immediately or only with changes.
  • Depending on the region, the president or governor has the authority to direct this situation. 

(4) Governor’s Authority:

  • The governor may appoint a commission to investigate and report on issues affecting autonomous districts or regions.
  • He or she has the authority to dissolve a district or regional council based on commission recommendations. 

Tribal areas under the Sixth Schedule

  • Include Assam’s North Cachar Hills District, Karbi Anglong District, and Bodoland Territorial Areas District.
  • Meghalaya’s districts include Khasi Hills, Jaintia Hills, and Garo Hills.
  • Tripura: Tribal Areas District.
  • Mizoram’s districts include Chakma, Mara, and Lai. 

Reasons for Demands in Ladakh: Cultural autonomy

  • Tribes of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, and Mizoram have diverse cultures, rituals, and civilizations. Unlike tribes in other regions of India, they have not assimilated well into the majority population.
  • Meeting tribal aspirations: The Parliamentary Standing Committee suggested that Ladakh be included in the Sixth Schedule because tribal communities make up 79.61% of the total population.
  • Autonomy and self-governance: Extending the Sixth Schedule to Ladakh could provide local tribal tribes more autonomy and control.
  • Cultural preservation: It could also help to safeguard local populations’ distinct cultural identities as well as their traditional rituals and customs. 

Challenges presented by this requirement

  • Fragmentation: Some claim that extending the Sixth Schedule to Ladakh would further split the territory and create additional administrative issues.
  • Loss of political capital: There are also concerns about how the demand would affect the region’s political and administrative structures.


  • While MHA’s decision falls short of Sixth Schedule inclusion, it shows a commitment to balance local authority with national governance interests.
  • If enacted, it would be the first time that unique measures for a Union Territory have been introduced, perhaps setting a precedent for future governing arrangements in such regions. 

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