Representational image. | Image Courtesy: Twitter
New Delhi: Residents of Kargil, though half-heartedly, have started preparing for Eid days after protests erupted in the Kargil district of Ladakh against the reorganisation of the Jammu and Kashmir state. The protests had also led to the imposition of Section 144 on Thursday, August 8. General shops have re-opened, which were closed due to a protest shutdown for the past three days and people are now out on the streets to purchase items for the festival which is on Monday. However, contrary to what media reports might suggest, the district is still far from a return to normalcy, according to the residents.
NewsClick spoke to a few residents who are worried about how this whole episode will affect their basic livelihoods. With schools and colleges in the area to remain closed till further orders and complete restriction over telecommunication facilities, inhabitants are looking at a future which seems bleak.
“Total economy of the region has been disturbed,” a resident told NewsClick, adding, “business establishments are experiencing decrease in footfall and the hotels are all vacant.”
Though banks in the town and surroundings are open, people are complaining about a cash crunch in the ATMs.
Apart from the obvious distress on the tourism industry – a major source of income for the people in Kargil – even the preparations for the coming winter have been affected, a period when the whole region will be totally cut off from the rest of India.
Speaking about the significance of the months before October, when winter usually arrives in Ladakh, another resident told NewsClick that in order to prevent any shortages of food and ration during the snowfall season, people in Ladakh manage sufficient stocks through bulk orders for the next six months. The demands are usually fulfilled with assistance from the Kashmiris who keep the supplies on due to the geographical proximity and good connectivity.
“However, with Kashmir now completely shutdown and the connectivity being cut, it is we, the people of Ladakh, who are going to bear the brunt,” the resident said.
Also read: “We Aspire to be with Kashmir,” Say Residents as Kargil Observes Shutdown
Responding to the reports of people’s celebrations over the Centre’s decision, another resident said, “Those who are celebrating right now have no inkling as to how the people of Ladakh survive during the winters and how the recent developments will affect our near future subsistence.”
The recent security lockdown in Jammu and Kashmir has also caused disturbance in the migrant workers economy of the state. Earlier, News 18 had reported how migrant workers from distant villages, due to non-payment of their salaries and imposition of tight travel restrictions in the region, are now crowding the railway and bus stations to leave the state at the earliest.
According to another report by Kashmir Times, the ‘undeclared curfew’ in Kashmir and restrictions in Kargil district has left many people confused and nervous.
“Local BJP cadres who are celebrating in Leh don’t know what are they celebrating for, and here in Kargil we are not sure about the details as well,” a resident said, talking about the uncertainty of the future course.
To clear the clouds of uncertainty, a three-member team led by Jammu and Kashmir Home Secretary Shaleen Kabra met the Joint Action Committee – a front that was leading the protest – in Kargil town on August 9.
According to the residents, assurances were provided and promises were made to propose articles in Parliament to protect the jobs and lands of local residents. However, the JAC dismissed such hollow promises, while the people termed them as mere ‘lollipops’.
NewsClick spoke to Sajjad Hussain, a social and political activist working in Ladakh, who commented that the shutdown has only been relaxed because of Eid and the protest will continue as the Centre’s decision goes against the aspirations of the people of Ladakh.
“… and if there’s unrest it means the government has failed,” another resident added.