After New Delhi recently gave land and job protection assurance to the annoyed political leadership of Leh, a sense of calm has returned to the roof of the world, but in the Muslim-majority region of Kargil, discontent is simmering. Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) led central government is making desperate attempts to pacify the restive population in Kargil but without any success so far.
AS troops and tanks stare at a long winter haul in the strategically-significant hinterland of Ladakh, the heartland recently erupted with an “identity” protest.
Throwing their weight behind the 6th Schedule that guarantees land and job protection to natives, the Leh leaders decided to boycott the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC) elections to press for their demands.
It took a curt call from Ministry of Home Affairs to summon the dissidents—including members of the BJP—to New Delhi for some quick damage control. The leaders returned “contented” and withdrew the protests.
But, many in Kargil argue, Leh can’t decide the fate of whole of Ladakh housing nearly 60 percent of Muslim population—who, they say, weren’t taken on board.
Unlike Leh, Kargil recently reiterated that the region’s fight is beyond 6th Schedule, as they’re yet to accept post-abrogation ‘reality’ of the region.
However, to tame the tempers in the Muslim-majority region, the BJP, it’s said, recently deputed an emissary.
Enter Imran Ansari
On September 25, Kashmiri Shia leader, Imran Raza Ansari reached out to the people of Kargil.
Ansari’s visit, interestingly, came when various political and religious leaders from the Shia Muslim majority region had upped the ante against the government and refused to align with Leh leadership on the grant of 6th schedule and other demands. Leadership cutting across party lines in Kargil have refused to accept the post August 5 position and insist on staying as part of Kashmir.
“Imran Ansari came here and tried to know our views regarding the ongoing issue,” Sheikh Nazir Mehdi, head of religious seminary, Jamiat Ulema-e- Isna Asharia Kargil, told Kashmir Observer over phone.
“We told him, categorically, that we want to be part of Jammu and Kashmir, and won’t accept anything less than that.”
Mehdi said people of Kargil have not accepted the Union Territory (UT) status yet, and there’re no questions of demanding the 6th Schedule.
“We’re neither in its favour, nor in its opposition,” he said.
Aga Syed Ahmad, councillor from Sankoo Constituency of Kargil, said they informed Imran Ansari that the UT status has been forcibly imposed on the people of Kargil and that they want to be part of Kashmir.
“We made it clear to Imran saheb that neither 6th Schedule nor UT status is acceptable to us,” Ahmad told Kashmir Observer.
According to Ahmad, Ansari told them ‘it’s the golden chance for Kargil to make the district more prosperous’, “but we told him: “Hum Aabad Tabi Hongay Jab Hum Kashmir Se Milein Gay (Kargil will be prosperous once merged back with Kashmir).”
These leaders, however, said they don’t know on whose behalf Imran Ansari was in Kargil but confirmed that he did meet different religious and political leaders in the region.
“May be he [Ansari] wanted to take credits for resolving a long pending issue in the region,” said Asgar Karbalai senior Kargil leader and former minister.
That pending issue is to bring the two influential religious institutions of Kargil—Imam Khomeini Memorial trust (IKMT) and Islamia School Kargil (ISK)—on the same page.
“By playing his part,” Karbalai said, “Ansari may want to project himself as the leader of Ladakhi, apart from Kashmiri Shias.”
“Had Gone to Attend Friend’s Wedding”
However, Ansari said that he was in Kargil in his “personal capacity”.
“I was there to attend my friend’s wedding,” Imran Ansari told Kashmir Observer. “Many people came and met me but we didn’t discuss anything related to politics.”
The former PDP minister said that during his recent Kargil visit, he also met his friends who studied with him in Iran.
“I didn’t discuss anything related to ongoing issues in Kargil,” he said.
Kargil’s Shelved Concerns
However, between the row over 6th Schedule and Imran’s sudden arrival in the region, Sheikh Mohammad Sadiq Rajai, head of Imam Khomeini Memorial Trust, said the voice of Kargil is not being heard.
“Since last year, we’ve witnessed that the UT status was not beneficial for the people of Kargil and we don’t expect that something good will happen,” Rajai said.
Notably, ever since the revocation of the special status on August 5 last year and subsequent bifurcation of erstwhile state into two union territories—Jammu Kashmir, and Ladakh—Kargil has shown a strong resentment against the split from Kashmir.
“Since the UT status was granted to Ladakh, Kargil has passed through an unending period of indifference,” Sheikh Nazir Mehdi continued.
Lieutenant Governor sits in Leh, with all its administrative men and machinery, he said.
“We’re being ignored because of our Muslim identity,” Mehdi, the head of the influential institution of Kargil, alleged.
Asgar Ali Karbalai said that the group of Leh leaders that recently met Amit Shah returned empty handed.
“New Delhi is not going to give Ladakh anything,” Karbalai told Kashmir Observer. “It’s just a hoodwink.”
Whatever was with them before 5 August had been snatched and nothing was provided instead, he said.
“We had financial powers, land allotment powers, administrative powers, divisional office, and many other things that were snatched,” he said.
“Even if the 6th Schedule is granted, the final powers will remain with the LG, who can do anything.”