The recent protests by the people of Kargil against theGovernor's administration decision for creating Ladakh as a separate revenue& administrative unit from Kashmir with divisional status headquartered at Leh is neither a dog-in-the-manger policy nor an overnight reaction. It's atale of negligence heaped gradually – adecades old trickling that started flooding. The district is so far known to beleast inclined to agitation despite occasional provocations from the onlythickly populated strip of Paddam in Zanskar.
The district situated at an altitude of 9,000 feet above sea level has been carved out in 7/1979 by separating it from Leh situated at a height of 11,000 feet from the mean sea level in what is called Ladakh.
Ladakh one of the three regions of J & K comprises of an area of 86,909 km2 extending from Siachin Glacier in the Karakoram in the north-east to the main Great Himalayas in the south inhabited by people of Indo-Aryan and Tibetan descent.
At geographical & developmental indices the tale of Kargil is distinct right from its creation vis-à-vis Leh. Although as per census 1971/1981 the population of Leh was 51,891/68,380 and that of Kargil 53,400/65,992 respectively yet Kargil was given allotted an area of 14,086 km2 whereas Leh was allowed to possess 45,110 km2, i,e three times more than that of Kargil marginalized physically. The remaining area of 27,713 km2 is construed to be under China's occupation.
Leh the land of white-washed Stupas, Gompas-Tibetan-BuddhistMonasteries has a triangular connectivity with the country. The two roadsare Leh-Manlai and viaKargil-Srinagar during summer seasonbesides all weather air connectivity through Kushok Bakula RimpocheeAirport at Leh- the 22nd highestcommercial airport in the world filling the voids in winter.
This connectivity hasfacilitated trade, travel, tourism and other activities developmental resultsof which are as plain as a pikestaff. Kargil has no such way outexcept through Zojila, at a height of 11,500 feet from mean sea level, whichremains closed from December (even before) to April and dented in spring/ summer demonizing the concerned.
In fact Kargilsacrificed one precious life when a person fell down from a matador during nineties land of Agas (Shia clerics& priests) went to Bagh Khomeni to welcome Sachin Pilot the then Congress minister concerned to announce a civil air port.
Since then nothing happened. For mitigating theirdifficulties the Kargiliates aspire for re-opening of all weather 160-170 kmslong Kargil-Skardu road, to have accessto Skardu which is the shortest distance from Kargil to any other major city.It is said presently there are 8,000 families standing divided on the fence of LoC closed since 1949.
The divided souls who share same and similar ethnicity andculture flutter to meet each other. People need to travel from Kargil to Skarduvia Srinagar, New Delhi, Attari, Lahore and Islamabad that counts for about 2,700 kms and takes 6 daysof arduous travel otherwise possible within 6 hours enjoyably and at less costs& fatigue. The civilian areas are so close that from the adjacent hill of last village of Hundarma (Indian side) one may see the people/villages of otherparted relations.
Moreover, when Jammu region has Poonch-Rawalakote road,Kashmir Uri-Muzaffarabad road for trade & travel, it is only Ladakh region destitute of it so fardeserving vehemently to have one of Kargil- Skardu which has previously been astretch of famious Silk Road also.With 15 years back announced digging ofZojila- Kargil tunnel not maturing till date the feel of discrimination by Kargiliates should not annoy butawake the helmsmen to the much neededaction.
On educational front there has been a Central Institute ofBuddhist Studies formerly known as School of Buddhist Philosophy established in 1959 in Leh by Ladakh Gompa Association with affiliation to Sumpuranand SanskritUniversity of Varanasi. On 19-3-2016 this CIBS was given deemed university status. Justafter a gap of some 33 months on 15-12-2018 Governor's administration approvedproposal for establishing a full-fledged university headquartered at Leh covering five colleges- two of Leh and threeof Kargil districts. Here too Kargil is at bay with common presumption thatrace & religion have come in theway.
Façade of the pilloried Kargil bears testimony to therepercussion of these shortcomings. Chain of bounties continued with thesanctioning of divisional headquarter at Leh instead of Kargil to balance thejustice. Kargil with three colleges, logisticallyequidistant with 160-170 kms from Skardu, 205 kms from Srinagar, 229 from Lehand 235 kms from Zanskar the universityshould have been stationed at Kargil. Grapevinehas it that Gubernatorial administration has taken decisions having farreaching effects which generally are taken by the elected representatives of the people after a duedebate & discussion in the august house of legislature.
Speculations are also rife that creating a separate divisionwas more a deliberation than thedemand as no such homework was there incontrast to the persistent requests by the people of Chenab Valley and thePirpanchal range which have been met only with denials. The people of theseareas too suffer due to lack of road,rail and air connectivity owing to the nonchalant timely state/centre governments.
These exclusively hilly areas too deserve divisional status separately more than that of Ladakh having two separate Autonomous Hill Development Councils one each at Leh (1995) and Kargil (2003), more powerful than the state, that has never strived for divisional status. Succeeding in sharing divisional status on rotational basis with Leh , Kargil is half-way lacking a full fledged university/civil airport and opening of Kargil-Skurdu road. When population of 2,87,492 (as per census 2011) of the two districts of Leh and Kargil qualify for grant of separate division, three districts each of the Chenab valley and the Pirpanchal area having population of 9,23,926 and 14,10,800 respectively justify sufficiently creation of two more separate divisions.
It is time to rise to the occasion as demanded by the civil society and the political parties. May this dispensation work to be remembered as an accommodative, impartial & judicious administration and remove scepticism of those who question the time and intent of such decisions?
(The author is a former Sr. Audit Officer working as Consultant in the A.G's Office Srinagar.)