People in Ladakh observed a bandh on Monday demanding statehood for the Union Territory and separate Lok Sabha seats for Leh and Kargil districts.
The Apex Body of Leh and the Kargil Democratic Alliance, two prominent groups representing political, religious and social organisations in Ladakh, had called for the shutdown, according to Greater Kashmir.
The two organisations had been formed after the Centre, on August 5, 2019, abrogated Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, which gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir. The erstwhile state was split into the Union territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.
The Centre had also scrapped Article 35A, which empowered the Jammu and Kashmir’s legislature to define the “permanent residents” of the state and provide them with special rights and privileges.
The Leh Apex Body and the Kargil Democratic Alliance are also demanding safeguards under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution, which guarantees a degree of autonomy and protection for tribal areas of the country.
A video shared on Twitter by political activist Sajjad Kargili showed deserted roads and closed shops in Kargil city.
Thupstan Chewang, the president of the Leh Apex Body, told The Times of India that transporters, hotel owners’ associations and other stakeholders had promised them support for the bandh.
Chewang added that army vehicles, passengers going to board flights and students appearing for examinations were not stopped during the bandh. Pharmacies were also allowed to remain open, Chewang said.
The opinions of citizens of Ladakh were divided on the Centre’s move to bifurcate Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories.
Those living in Leh initially welcomed the move as it fulfilled their long-standing demand for Ladakh to be made a Union Territory, PTI reported. But, people in Kargil had protested against the move.
However, in August, representatives of the two district united to seek statehood and constitutional safeguards for Ladakh. The Apex Body of Leh and the Kargil Democratic Alliance had announced their plans for large-scale protests in November.
Asgar Ali Karbala, the co-chairperson of the Kargil Democratic Alliance, said there had been no headway even three months after they met Union minister Nityanand Rai to discuss their demands.