Cultural Differences To The Fore? Kargil Demands Separate Institution After Cluster University Approved For Leh
Cultural Differences To The Fore? Kargil Demands Separate Institution After Cluster University Approved For LehProtesters demanding a separate university in Kargil. (@airnewsalerts/Twitter)

Protests by students and political outfits have broken out in Jammu and Kashmir’s (J&K) Kargil district demanding a separate university to be set up there after the State Administrative Council (SAC) headed by Governor Satya Pal Malik approved the creation of a cluster university in the Buddhist-dominated Leh district, reports The Indian Express.

Governor Malik tried to assuage students’ concerns by stating that the Leh university’s offices would be divided evenly between Leh and Kargil. The protesting groups have however decided to continue to press forward with their demand for a separate varsity.

The SAC passed its decision on 15 December, and in response a complete shutdown was observed over 17 and 18 December in Kargil, with student groups coming out in force at rallies across the town.

“We have been demanding a separate university at Kargil for a long time. Recently, the Governor’s administration announced a cluster university for Ladakh with the head office at Leh, which triggered protests in Kargil. The Governor has now assured us that there will be an equal division of offices at Kargil and Leh when the cluster university comes up,” President of the All Ladakh Student Welfare Association Jammu (Kargil) Shakeel Zaki stated.

Zaki added that the students would continue to call for their demand for a separate full-fledged university to be met. Political and religious representatives from Kargil met with Governor Malik on Wednesday (19 December), who promised to address their demand.

Dominant political parties of the Kashmir valley, the National Conference and the People’s Democratic Party also came out in support of the demand, calling for balancing the needs of the Kargil and Leh districts.

Omar Abdullah, the state’s former Chief Minister tweeted, “It’s very important for Governor Malik to balance the demands & requirements of Leh AND Kargil. Failure to address the concerns of BOTH districts leads to alienation & anger. Kargil deserves justice.”

Both the Leh and Kargil districts are located in the sparsely populated Ladakh division of J&K, but have major cultural and religious differences, which are now under the lens due to the protests. Kargil is predominantly inhabited by Shia Muslims while Buddhists form the majority in Leh.

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