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Note: Due to the ongoing communication blockade in Kashmir, where the government has snapped all internet and mobile services, The Kashmir Walla is being updated from New Delhi.

Kargil: On 5 August 2019, when Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led coalition National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government announced the abrogation of special status of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, the government of India also bifurcated the state into two union territories, Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir.

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While Buddhist dominated Leh region of Ladakh welcomed the decision and celebrated the move, the Muslim dominated Kargil protested against it, and sang the dissent rhymes hand-in-hand with the Kashmir Valley.

For almost a week, a complete shutdown was observed in the Shia Muslim dominated region and authorities imposed restrictions in various towns and villages of Kargil. The inhabitants of the region, who often claim to be sidelined and given a step motherly treatment by successive governments, rose up to make their demands and protested the central government’s decision.

 “The decision is definitely influenced by the relation between (Israel’s Prime Minister) Benjamin Netanyahu’s and (Indian Prime Minister) Narendra Modi,” said Akhtar Hussain, who is currently pursuing master from New Delhi’s Jamia Millia University. “They are good friends and Modi is only following his Israeli counterpart.”

Mr. Hussain said that it was quite obvious that by abrogating the law the Indian government was trying to change the demography of the state and the region. “BJP wants Muslims to be in minority and then rule here forever,” he said, and expressed his fear of right-wing groups making it into Kargil.

Not only Mr. Husain but even former Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA), Asghar Karbalai, holds the same view. Mr. Karbalai draws parallel between the behavior of Indian government and Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

“Kushner has been trying to rally Arabs against the cause of Palestine by pumping in billions of dollars and giving them assurances that their monarchies would be safe. He is selling Palestine and naming it the deal of century,” said Mr. Karbalai. “Amit Shah [India’s Home Minister] is just trying to rally non-Muslims of state against the Muslims.

Calling 5 August “a black day for Indian parliament and people of Jammu and Kashmir, especially Kargil,” Mr. Karbalai said, “Secular people of India or for that matter people of Jammu and Kashmir including Kargil don’t accept the scrapping of the Article 370 and Article 35A, and the bifurcation of the state of Jammu and Kashmir.”

Adding that people of Kargil have already suffered in the earlier wars between India and Pakistan, he said that because of the partition in 1947, over 5500 families of Kargil stand divided across the border. “Another division of the state, on the basis of religion, caste, color etc, is completely unacceptable for its people,” he said. “Forcefully bringing in a bill that scraps the region of its special status is unacceptable.”

General voice on the streets feels betrayed after “the unilateral decision of India.”

Talking to The Kashmir Walla, a local resident of Kargil, Zakir Hussain, “I always believed in the Indian constitution and had full faith in its democracy setup. But, now I feel betrayed.”

Speaking of the small communities in Ladakh, and variety of ethnicities, Mr. Hussain said that the decision will have serious implications on Ladakh. “Our culture will be attacked and then our existence will be attacked too.”

Another local from Sankoo area of Kargil, Aga Ainul, a PHd scholar, believes that the central government wants to impose Hinduism across the country and that abrogation of Article 370 and Article 35A was one such decision towards their goal.

“It is an old fight: the battle between the ideologies of (Mahatma) Gandhi and (Nathu Ram) Godse.”

Talking of restrictions and communication gag in the Kashmir Valley, an activist, Sajjad Kargili, said, “Kashmiris are our brothers and we are with them in everything. It breaks our hearts to see them in such conditions.”

Expressing his concerns “over the treatment meted out to the people of valley,” Mr. Kargili said that Kargil is standing shoulder to shoulder with Muslim brothers in Kashmir. “Where else do you see such repression in the world?” Kargili wondered. “We are pained at what is happening in Kashmir.”

Kargili termed the abrogation of article 370 as the “murder” of Indian constitution. “The decision was a murder of democracy. People of India should know that whatever happened in Kashmir can happen to them also,” he said. “People of India should protest against the abrogation of special status.”

He believes that in the books of history, this decision by BJP “will be remembered as the one made by keeping Kashmiris at a gun point.”

Qamar Ali Akhoon, a former minister of state and a senior National Conference leader, said that the people of Kargil want a united state of Jammu and Kashmir, like earlier. “We have always said that Jammu, Kashmir, and Ladakh should be united,” he said. “People of Kargil have also resisted moves to remove the special status of Jammu and Kashmir.”

He further said that the decision should be revisited and Article 370 and Article 35A be restored in Jammu and Kashmir.

This story originally appeared in the 2-8 September 2019 print edition of The Kashmir Walla.