New Delhi: Several hundred people took to the streets of Kargil in the newly formed Union Territory of Ladakh to protest against the August 5 decision of the government of India to bifurcate the state of Jammu and Kashmir and read down Article 370.
October 31 was the third day of strikes in the region located close to the Line of Control. All the markets in the towns of Kargil and Drass remained shut. Protesters marched onto the streets with black flags in hand, marking October 31 – the day the bifurcation takes effect– as a ‘black day’.
As The Wire has reported in the past, the decision to bifurcate J&K received mixed reactions in the new union territory of Ladakh, which comprises two districts – Kargil and Leh.
In Leh, the decision has been welcomed – with caveats – as the Buddhist majority district had been demanding that Ladakh be administered by the Centre since 1949. On the other hand, Muslim majority Kargil had never wished to be separated from J&K.
Both districts, however, are united in their demand for protection when it comes to jobs and land, something they have been stripped off with the reading down of Article 370.
They have demanded that the new Union Territory be brought under Schedule 6 of the constitution which currently grants a degree of autonomy to certain states in the northeastern region of India.
The Joint Action Committee of Kargil which comprises several social, religious and political organisations has met with representatives of the state of J&K and the Centre and expressed their reservation.
Now, they have begun protesting the government’s and the administration’s inaction on those demands.
Those demands include safeguarding locals’ jobs and land, renaming of the Union Territory to ‘Leh and Kargil’ and the granting of legislative authority to the Autonomous Hill Council.
“We were told that all the issues would be resolved by October 31. But nothing has happened. Now, they are saying that it could take two years or even more,” said Asgar Ali Karabalai, a former Congress MLA from Kargil and one of the key members of the Joint Action Committee of Kargil.
“This is a betrayal of the people of Ladakh. Even Leh has started to realise that they have been fooled with the Union Territory status. We wont tolerate these empty promises anymore. We will fight till each and every one of our demands are met,” he said.