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People in the mountainous Kargil town continued with their protests and shutdown for the fourth consecutive day Tuesday to demand the headquarters of newly-carved out Ladakh division on rotational basis between Leh and Kargil.

All shops and business establishments remained closed, while traffic was off the roads.

The shutdown has been called by various political and social leaders in Kargil.

A witness said that braving cold, hundreds of people assembled outside the office of deputy commissioner Kargil, and staged a massive protest demonstration there.

On Monday, the protesters didn’t allow the newly-posted divisional commissioner Ladakh Swagat Biswas to enter the Kargil town on Monday.

“We will fight until we get our equal rights,” said Sajad Ahmad, a social activist from Kargil.

Meanwhile, an official spokesman said the governor and the government have taken note of the sentiments of the people of Kargil, following the decision to create a new administrative/revenue division of Ladakh.

“The government is equally sensitive to the needs and aspirations of both districts. It is also aware of the administrative needs of the region and the connectivity challenges,” the spokesman said. “It is with this in mind that the government decision also included the formation of a committee of very senior officers of the state to determine the location and scope and size of division-level offices, their staffing, size and most importantly, their location in the division”.

“This Committee will submit its report only after interacting with all stakeholders and understanding their needs. It will submit this in a very short time,” the spokesman said, urging all parties to be patient.

“Everyone’s interest will be taken care of as that is the objective of the government,” the statement read.

Meanwhile, National Conference vice-president Omar Abdullah Tuesday asked the governor’s administration to issue immediate orders for keeping the headquarters of newly-announced Ladakh division on rotational basis between Leh and Kargil.

In a statement, Omar said one fails to understand why the governor’s administration has “tangled the decision of giving due share to Kargil in administrative red-tapeism”.

“The government’s announcement of forming a committee of secretaries to look into the demand of rotational divisional headquarters is a measure to buy time. The incumbent governor’s administration should have taken into consideration the genuine sentiment of Leh, Kargil and other adjoining areas while deciding on the establishment of divisional headquarters. Kargil too should have been given its due share which didn’t happen for reasons known to the administration,” he said adding: “It seems the decision was taken in haste and is contrived (sic) to pitch one community against the other. Had the idea behind this act been to empower the people of Ladakh, then the governor would have had large-scale deliberations beforehand over the intricacies involved”.

“The fact that people in Kargil and elsewhere in Jammu have taken out huge processions demanding due representation to Kargil underscores the point that the incumbent administration has failed to gauge the repercussions of its ill-advised move of keeping the divisional headquarters permanently at Leh. It seems they are more interested in playing to the galleries which unfortunately has pitted one region against the other,” he said.

The idea of keeping divisional headquarters at Leh only will serve no good to the people of Kargil, he said.

“The distance between Leh and Kargil is greater than it is between Srinagar and Kargil. It is rather easier for them to visit Srinagar than Leh. Besides, the adjoining areas of Kargil district, including Drass, are much far off from Leh. Draas is comparatively closer to Srinagar than Leh,” Omar said.

He said what people of Kargil are demanding is “not laced with communal overtones”.

“The decision will impede the developmental prospects of many adjoining areas of Kargil including Zanskar and Draas. People across the political divide have come out in protest against the ill-conceived decision. People are holding massive demonstrations against the move, braving sub-zero temperatures of minus 17 degree Celsius. The move has distressed the people,” Omar said, adding that the governor should immediately “concede to the demands of the protesters”.

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