TWO DAYS after the Jammu and Kashmir administration announced Leh as the headquarters of the newly created Ladakh division, a large group of people on Sunday took out a march on the streets of Kargil to demand rotation of the headquarters.
The decision to base the headquarters in Leh has united the people of Kargil across the religious and political spectrum. According to them, the demand for divisional status came from Kargil and not Leh.
“Leh always demanded a Union Territory. They wanted bifurcation of the state,” Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Ladakh Hill Development Council, Kargil Feroz Ahmad Khan, told The Indian Express. “We were against division of the state and the demand for divisional status was always ours.”
On Sunday, an estimated 10,000 people marched on the streets of Kargil to demand the six-monthly rotation of headquarters between Leh and Kargil.
“We demand that the offices of Divisional Commissioner and IGP should be moved to Kargil for six months. Also the other directorate offices should be equally divided between Leh and Kargil,” Khan said. “What is the fun of divisional status if the headquarters remains permanently at Leh. The distance between Srinagar and Kargil is only 200 km while Leh is 220 km away.”
On February 8, the J&K administration issued a notification bifurcating Ladakh — comprising the twin districts of Kargil and Leh — from Kashmir division and declaring it a separate division. The notification said the divisional headquarters of the new division would be at Leh.
The decision to create a separate division for Ladakh has already triggered a controversy with people from the Chenab valley and Pri Panjal in Jammu region also demanding the divisional status. Most of the political parties of the state have thrown their weight behind the people of Chenab valley and Pir Panjal in their demand for the divisional status.
In Ladakh, the separate division has divided the people of Leh and Kargil with the people of Kargil crying discrimination.
“We welcome the divisional status but that doesn’t mean you will keep everything at Leh. It is injustice with us. We don’t ask for everything. We are saying keep the headquarters in Kargil for six months. They gave 300-bed hospital, it went to Leh, they have proposal for medical college, that would be Leh. They are talking about a university that too in Leh,” said Haji Anayat Ali, Chairman of the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Council.
“If they want to give everything to Leh let them give but don’t give it in the name of Ladakh.”
Valley-based political parties have come out in support of Kargil. “Keeping HQ permanently at one place is total discrimination with the other area, so the best option is to keep the HQ at both Leh and Kargil on rotational basis,” tweeted former chief minister and PDP president Mehbooba Mufti.
BJP ally Peoples Conference has also demanded rotation of divisional headquarters between Leh and Kargil. “The rotational demand for divisional headquarters between Leh and Kargil is justified. Kargil has been ignored in the developmental processes…,” party chairman Sajad Lone tweeted.