Residents of Kargil district observed a “Black Day” on Thursday to protest against the formation of the Ladakh Union Territory on its first day of existence, PTI reported. Kargil is one of the two districts of the Union Territory, the other being Leh.

The Ladakh region was until Wednesday part of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. However, the state was bifurcated into two Union Territories, one retaining the name and the other Ladakh, with effect from October 31. Ladakh will not have an elected legislature.

Markets were shut in Kargil town and residents took to the streets to express their unhappiness. “We are totally against this decision,” former chairperson of the Kargil Hill Development Council, Asgar Ali Karbalai, said. “We have been continuously protesting against this and for the last three days, people are on the roads, markets are shut and public transport is off the roads.”

“This is an imposed decision without the consent of the people,” he added. “We have now been left without any legislative or powers.”

Visuals on social media showed protestors marching with black flags.

Former legislative council member from Kargil, Aga Syed Ahmed Razvi, said people of the town are being discriminated and left aside. “Kargil is facing intense issues of infrastructure, connectivity and development as the Centre’s attention is more on Leh,” he claimed. “The citizens did not want this bifurcation. We are not azadi seekers [separatists], we want unity and justice. Even when this bifurcation has happened, there should be a balance between Kargil and Leh.”

Razvi called Kargil and Leh as “two eyes” of Ladakh, and said: “One eye should not be discriminated from another. The previous governor promised to give us regional status but Leh has got a better deal and issues for Kargil are growing rather than getting solved. We are therefore protesting.”

Meanwhile, Bharatiya Janata Party MP from Ladakh Jamyang Tsering Namgyal called the bifurcation a “inclusive development plan” for the people of the region. “The people of Ladakh have been waiting for this for the last 71 years,” he said. “This place has immense potential for border security, defence, ecosystem and medicinal plants, besides tourism.”

The parliamentarian’s speech in the Lok Sabha after the abrogation of special status to Jammu and Kashmir was appreciated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah. Namgyal had said that Ladakh felt stifled by Jammu and Kashmir’s decision-making apparatus, which was centred in Srinagar. He had strongly endorsed the move to split the state into separate Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.

Deldan Namgyal, former MLA from Nubra Valley in Leh, said people were expecting inclusion in the Sixth Schedule to protect their culture and economic aspects. “We are waiting for an announcement from the Centre,” he said. “Political and religious organisations are showing their resentment for not including us in the Sixth Schedule. We are happy with the UT decision, but we are also showing resentment as there is no protection.”

The Sixth Schedule of the Constitution of India provides safeguards for tribal-dominated regions.

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