Amid the restrictions, this year’s Muharram procession in Kargil was exacerbated with the sorrow of losing one’s homeland. This time, the Shia majority population of Kargil took out the procession to re-assert their resentment against the Centre’s decision to bifurcate Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories. Hundreds of Shia Muslims could be seen holding placards reading, “We Reject UT Ladakh, Justice For Kashmir, Live and Die With Kashmir.” Every year, Shia Muslims across the world mourn the death of Hussain and his family during the month of Muharram. “This time, the Muharram procession was more about protesting against the government’s decision and re-asserting that we all stand together in this,” said a prominent social activist from Kargil on the condition of anonymity..
Kargil, now a part of the new Union Territory of Ladakh, has rejected the Centre’s decision since the announcement on August 5. Since then, the region, like Kashmir, has been put under lockdown, internet services have been blocked and strict attempts are being made to suppress the voices rising against the decision.
“Union Territory status has been imposed on Kargil, we never demanded for UT, Leh did. We have been separated from Jammu and Kashmir and have also been robbed from a legislature. We feel uprooted. We were always against the division of our state. I must say it, the GoI in a deceitful manner, without even asking the leaders and taking people into confidence took away our special status. Yeh zulm hai. Yehi Karbala hai. (This is atrocity. This is Karbala),” said former MLC Aga Ahmad Sankoo from Kargil.
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On the 10th day of Muharram, the day of Ashura, strict restrictions were imposed in Kargil to stop the residents from protesting. “The anger is such that even though there were restrictions, people came out with placards and raised slogans without fearing the consequences. The emotions are very strong right now, the fear has vanished,” said Hussain. The Shias in Kashmir have echoed similar feelings. Residents have been comparing the current situation with Karbala which is metaphor for the ordeal faced by the people.
“Since we have been separated from Kashmir, every day has been Ashura,” said Aga Rizvi from Hardas, Kargil district. “The people in Kargil don’t want UT with Leh. We have always supported India but having said that, we can’t leave Kashmir. Kashmir is like a part of our body. Half of our families are settled in Kashmir. Some of our families have been living Gilgit Baluchistan. We are already dealing with separation, not again. Mujhe bahut afsoos ke saath kehna pad raha hai, lekin Modi ke hukumut ne bahut mushikalat paida kiye hai hamare liye (I say this with regret, but Modi’s rule has created a lot of trouble for us),” added Rizvi.
Another resident, Hussain Kargili (name changed) said, “We are not even allowed to speak. Whenever we speak, we are promptly tagged as anti-India, even when people of Kargil have never been anti-India. We are incomplete without Kashmir. Our daughters have been married to Kashmiris. We have our family members there. Also, we never desired for a UT. Jiss din se hamara Kashmir ke saath judai hua hai, ussi din se hamara Ashura hua hai, Mahuram hua hai. (Since the day we were separated from Kashmir, our Ashura, our Muharram started from that day).”
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Shia Muslims from Kargil also spoke about the sectarian divide between Shias and Sunnis. “This is a systematic way to divide the people. First, this is not a Shia and Sunni issue as few media organisations are portraying. It’s an issue of our identity and we are together in this. Kargil, having a dominant Shia population is protesting against this. So, its clearly not a Shia-Sunni issue. My request to such media organisations is that they should write about the grievances of the people rather than giving it a colour of sectarian split.” Hussain told NewsClick.
With each passing day, more residents are coming out to protest in the region. “Kargil has been peaceful and it shall remain so. But if you try to suppress the people, there will be a reaction and that is natural to every society. So, yes the reaction is building up. People are very angry,” he added.