The first thing the people of Kargil tell outsiders is that the Ladakh region is comprised of the two distinct districts of Kargil and Leh. And that Ladakh is not all about monasteries or Buddhist monks, and the majority population is of Muslims. For decades, the two districts have been rivals in a scramble for funds and political power. While Leh always wanted to be separated from the state of Jammu and Kashmir, Kargil was opposed to any division. Even as Leh celebrated after being granted a union territory status on 5 August, Kargil protested with a charter of demands, which included the demand for a separate union territory. All the political and religious organisations in Kargil, except the local unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party, formed a joint-action committee to fight for this charter.
When I visited Kargil in the last week of October, the situation seemed normal, but there was no internet on mobile phones. People were anxious about 31 October, when Kargil will formally become a part of the Ladakh union territory. The residents of Kargil were unhappy with the way the BJP government at the centre sanctioned various facilities to Leh, and ignored them. They were getting ready for a long struggle to make their voices heard.
Praveen Donthi, a staff writer at The Caravan, spoke with Asgar Ali Karbalai, a Congress leader and a prominent social activist in Kargil, on how the reorganisation of the state of Jammu and Kashmir affected Kargil. Karbalai was a former member of the erstwhile state’s assembly and represented the Kargil constituency. He was also the chairman of the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council, an autonomous district council, created in 1995, that administers the Ladakh region.