In a dramatic development, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs has on Saturday removed retired career bureaucrat Radha Krishna Mathur as the first Lieutenant Governor of Ladakh, 20 months short of the completion of his 5-year term. In a communication issued by the Rashtrapati Bhawan, Arunachal Pradesh Governor, Brigadier (retd) B.D Mishra, also holding the charge of Governor of Meghalaya, has been appointed as the new LG of Ladakh.
Mathur, who served as the Union Defence Secretary, as also Chief Information Commissioner after his retirement, was appointed LG for Ladakh on 25 October, 2019, ahead of the operationalization of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh as two separate Union Territories (UTs).
The two new UTs were created out of the erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir through the Jammu and Kashmir (Reorganisation) Act which was passed in the Parliament on 5-6 August, 2019, and took effect on 31 October 2019. Retired IAS officers Girish Chandra Murmu and Radha Krishna Mathur were appointed as LGs respectively for J&K and Ladakh.
Following Murmu’s appointment as Comptroller and Auditor General of India, politician and former Union Minister Manoj Kumar Sinha was appointed as the second LG in J&K on 7 August, 2020.
Eighty-three-year old BD Mishra, who participated in the China-India war in 1962 and India-Pakistan wars of 1965 and 1971, has served the Indian Army from 1961 to 1995. He was the Commander of the National Security Guard Counter Hijack Task Force that assaulted the hijacked aircraft of the Indian Airlines and successfully executed the hostage rescue operation at Raja Sansi Airfield, Amritsar, on 24 April 1993. All 124 passengers and crew members were rescued unharmed.
Highly placed bureaucratic sources told India Narrative that the MHA conveyed its decision to Mathur and called him back to the Union Capital on Saturday. He shared the dramatic development with the top echelons of the government, packed his luggage and departed for New Delhi.
Though the reasons behind Mathur’s termination were not immediately clear, there were whispers in the corridors of power in New Delhi that his failure to deal with the ongoing political unrest in Ladakh could have influenced the decision. Days after high drama on the education reformist Sonam Wangchuk’s dharna, the joint leadership of the Buddhists of Leh and the Muslims of Kargil, with participation of all political parties except the BJP, has called for ‘Delhi Chalo’ for a major demonstration on February 15.
Leh Apex Body (LAB) and Kargil Democratic Alliance (KDA) have intensified agitation to press their demand for “Statehood with Sixth Schedule status”, job opportunities and creation of two Lok Sabha seats for Leh and Kargil districts.
The agitation was going on for more than two years with Leh and Kargil representatives keeping aside their political rivalry and joining hands for the demands by observing hartals, holding protests in Ladakh as well as in Jammu, which makes for a second home for many of the Ladakhis. However, a call for march to Delhi has come for the first time.
While the UT of Jammu and Kashmir was granted legislature, Ladakh was denied an Assembly for the small size of its population and comprising just two districts and four Assembly segments in the erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly.
In a few months of its becoming a UT, which was a decades-long demand of the people from Leh, unrest started brewing in the Muslim-dominated Kargil district which raised the demands of either its unification with J&K or Statehood for the entire Ladakh. Subsequently, the Buddhist leadership in Leh joined the same demand, even as leaders appeared content with a Sixth Schedule arrangement already given to some areas in the North East. The alliance of LAB and KDA was a result of this camaraderie.
The Union Ministry of Home Affairs held a few rounds of talks with the striking bodies in New Delhi as well as in Leh but the dialogue did not continue after August 2021. On January 3 this year, the MHA set up a High Powered Committee headed by Union Minister of State for Home, Nityanand Rai, for talks including nine representatives of LAB and KDA. However, the Ladakh leadership rejected the panel for the reason that it did not specifically mention its agenda.
As the standoff continued, LAB and KDA called for a protest demonstration at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi in support of their demands on February 15.