To protest against the government’s decision to position the newly-carved Ladakh division’s headquarters at Leh, Kargil has remained shut since the move was announced by Governor Satya Pal Malik’s administration on February 8, demanding that the permanent divisional headquarters be rotational with equal amounts of time for both districts constituting the division.
All government offices, businesses and transport have remained shut and hundreds of local residents are holding protests on the streets citing “injustice” on part of the government in excluding Kargil. A Joint Resistance Committee has been formed in Kargil to continue the campaign against permanent headquarters at Leh and has declared a “mass civil disobedience movement” against SRO 110 — the order that details the creation of the new division.
The administration approved the creation of a separate division for the two districts of Kargil and Leh, carving it out of the Kashmir province, spawning demand for divisional status for Pir Panjal and Chenab regions as well.
Sajjad Kargili, an activist spearheading protests, told The Indian Express, “Leh had always demanded a Union Territory status because they clearly want separation from Jammu as well as Kashmir but Kargil has been demanding divisional status for all of Ladakh, seeking only an administrative divide from Kashmir.” He said that five years after Union minister Nitin Gadkari announced that the Centre will give UT status to Leh, “nothing moved on the ground” and Kargil “sharpened its demand for divisional status”.
Syed Sajad, a teacher from Kargil, said, “This isn’t a fight against Leh but a fight for the legitimate rights of Kargil. The Centre has managed to create chaos in one of the most peaceful regions of the state. Kargil is like the poorer cousin in Ladakh.” On January 14, a meeting of the representatives of the Ladakh Hill Development Council, including former Chief Executive Councillors, representatives of all political parties, former MPs, MLAs and MLCs, and representatives of all religious and social organisations from the two districts, took place in Jammu. The members sought “equal distribution of the infrastructure and staff at both places as per the convenience of the people of both the districts”, as per the minutes of the meeting.
Haji Inayat Ali, Chairman of J&K Legislative Council wrote to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, cautioning that the announcement of a separate division for Ladakh should not “become an instrument of hostility between the Leh and Kargil districts”. He has also sought time from the Home Minister to discuss the issue on January 19.
National Conference vice president Omar Abdullah on Tuesday impressed upon the administration to issue immediate orders for the Ladakh headquarters to be divided on rotational basis between Leh and Kargil. “Given the fact that people in Kargil and elsewhere in Jammu have taken out huge processions demanding due representation to Kargil underscores the point that incumbent administration has failed to gauge the repercussions of their ill-advised move,” he said.
People’s Conference chief Sajad Lone tweeted, “There is a huge economic disparity between Leh and Kargil. It will push Kargil further down the economic ladder. Inclusiveness demands that devolution is evenly divided. It will develop both the places.”
Meanwhile, protests spilled on to the streets of Kargil for the fifth consecutive day with government offices remaining shut owing to the strike call given by the Hill Development Council Kargil, under which all government departments operate in the district.