Taking charge as the first Lieutenant Governor of the newly created Union Territory of Ladakh on Thursday (October 31), Radha Krishna Mathur sought to strike a conciliatory note amid claims that the central government was showing a discriminatory attitude towards the Shia Muslim-dominated Kargil district.
“Listening to people” from both Leh and Kargil, Mathur said, was his priority and he would not chart out development plans for Ladakh without speaking to the people and the hill councils of both districts.
“My first objective is to connect and listen to the people, the two councils, intellectuals and the general public of Ladakh and on those basis policies will be framed. The Indian government is already working on many developmental works here and we will look further ahead to negate more development in Ladakh,” he told the press after taking oath of office.
Asked by The Federal about the complete shutdown in Kargil caused by the general strike against the central government, Mathur avoided directly addressing the 14-point charter of demands placed by the Joint Action Committee (JAC) of Kargil before the government. “I believe that everything has to be done in consultation with people and the hill councils of the two districts,” he reiterated.
Led by the JAC, the people in Kargil are protesting since October 29 against what they described as “step-motherly” treatment to the district bordering the Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan. They had planned a candlelight march on Wednesday evening but were prevented from congregating by security forces.
An important participant at Mathur’s swearing-in ceremony was the chairman of the Kargil Hill Development Council, Feroz Ahmad Khan. Explaining his presence at the event, which most thought would be boycotted by him, Khan told The Federal, “I am here to present the concerns of the people of Kargil to the Honourable Lt. Governor.”
He said that as chairman it was his responsibility to convey the reservations of Kargil’s people and the JAC to the new Lt. Governor. “In our first meeting, I briefed him about the 14-point charter and explained to him why the protests are happening in Kargil.”
Khan said that one of the points he stressed on during his interaction with Mathur was the need for the headquarters of Ladakh to be shifted between Leh and Kargil every six months. “The Lt. Governor has promised to consider the issues and negotiations will be done with his advisors. He said he will also meet the representatives of the Kargil soon.”
Meanwhile, BJP MP from Ladakh, Jamyang T Namgyal, said that October 31 was a historic day in the history of the Ladakhi people. “Ladakh will have a bright future now. Every section of Ladakhi society had suffered under Kashmir. I am happy the slogan ‘free Ladakh from Kashmir’ that reverberated decades back is now a reality.”
He further said that the protests in Kargil are led by some people for their own political gains. “The people of Kargil are being misled by people with vested interests; their political shops are closed and they do not want to see Kargil prosper,” he said.
Jamyang added, “I want to take the twin districts equally on the path of development. Unfortunately, I am not getting the support from Kargil due to unknown reasons. I represent both the districts, not just Leh.”