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Location map of Kargil District in Jammu & Kashmir state

Map of Kargil (this map includes a territory under Chinese administration as a part of Aksai Chin)

Sunset in the mountains of Kargil

Kargil (Ladakhi: ཀར་གིལ་) is a district of Ladakh, Kashmir, India. Kargil lies near the Line of Control facing Pakistan-occupied Kashmir's Baltistan to the west, and Kashmir valley to the south. Zanskar is part of Kargil district along with Suru, Wakha and Dras valleys. Kargil was at the center of a conflict between India and Pakistan in 1999.

As of 2011 it is the least populous district of Jammu and Kashmir (out of 22).[1]

Geography[edit | edit source]


Kargil Valley covered in snow

Kargil town

Kargil district is nestled in the Himalayas, giving it a cool, temperate climate. Summers are warm with cool nights, while winters are long and cold with temperatures often dropping to −40 °C (−40.0 °F) with recorded temperatures of −60 °C (−76.0 °F) in the tiny town of Dras, situated some 56 km (35 mi) from the Kargil town. The Zanskar plateau is even colder, making it thus a near-uninhabitable place for humans, except for the hardy Khampas. The entire Kargil district is spread over 14,086 km2 (5,439 sq mi). The Suru River flows through the district.

National Highway 1D, connecting Srinagar to Leh, cuts through Kargil. This highway is typically open for traffic only from June to mid-November due to heavy snowfall at the Zoji La, but in recent years it has been opened before June. Kargil is located 204 km (127 mi) from the capital city of Srinagar. There is a partially paved road—the first 40 kilometres (25 mi) or so—leading from Kargil south to Zanskar. Total distance to Zanskar is nearly 220 km (140 mi), which is again open only from June to September. The region has recently been opening to tourists, with steps a travel hub by the Indian Government.[2] Recently, both India and Pakistan have considered linking the Pakistan town of Skardu with Kargil via a bus route to facilitate free movement of Kashmiris in the area.[3]

Demographics[edit | edit source]

Local girls in Kargil.

According to the 2011 census Kargil district has a population of 143,388 ,[4] roughly equal to the nation of Saint Lucia.[5] This gives it a ranking of 603rd in India (out of a total of 640).[4] The district has a population density of 10 inhabitants per square kilometre (26 /sq mi) .[4] Its population growth rate over the decade 2001-2011 was 20.18 %.[4] Kargil has a sex ratio of 775 females for every 1000 males,[4] and a literacy rate of 74.49 %.[4]

Of total population, 80% are Muslim 95,963, of which 73% follow Shia Islam. Most of the district's Muslims are found in Kargil town, Drass, and the lower Suru valley. Of the remainder 15% are followers of Tibetan Buddhism and Bön mostly found in Zanskar with small populations in the upper Suru valley (Rangdum) and around Shergol and Mulbekh. Another 4% of the population follow Hinduism and Sikhism.[6]

Much of Kargil population is inhabited by the Burig and Balti people of Tibetan origin (converting from Buddhism to Islam in the 16th Century) and have intermingled with the Dard, Mon and other Aryan people. The mainly Muslim Dards inhabit the valley of Drass and speak Shina, a small number of Buddhist Dard, known as Brokpa, inhabit the Dha-Hanu region near the Lamayuru monastery. Some Arghons and Shina are also settled in Kargil Town.

Languages[edit | edit source]

Vernaculars include Balti, written in both the Arabic and Devanagari scripts and spoken by over 300 000, mainly in Pakistan.[7]

Culture[edit | edit source]

Row of Chorten (or Stupa) at the village of Purne. Each of the elements that constitute these edifices, as well as their color, has a symbolic meaning in Tibetan Buddhism.

Though earlier Tibetan contact has left a profound influence upon the people of both Kargil and Leh, after the spread of Shia Islam the people of Kargil came under heavy influence of Persian culture. This is apparent by the rigorous use of Persian words and phrases in the popular religious as well as other songs called marsias and qasidas. At least until recently, some Kargilis, especially those of the Agha families descendants of Syed preachers who were in a direct line descent from the Prophet Muhammad, were sent to Iraq for their education.[8]

Social ceremonies such as marriages still carry many customs and rituals which are common to both the Muslims and Buddhists. Among the two districts of Ladakh, Kargil has a more mixed ethnic population and thus there are more regional dialects spoken in Kargil as compared to Leh. Local folk songs which are called rgya-glu and balti ghazals are still quite popular and are performed enthusiastically at social gatherings. The J&K tourism ministry annually organises festivals in which various programmes are organised to highlight the culture so as to boost the tourism industry in the district. However, the tourism industry is still undeveloped despite attractive natural as well as rich cultural resources due to bad infrastructure and severe accommodation problems.

History[edit | edit source]

The Kun and Nun mountain range in Kargil.

The name Kargil is said to be derived from the words Khar and rKil. Khar means castle and rKil means center thus a place between castles as the place lay between many kingdoms. The competing theory is that Kargil has been derived from the words "Gar" and "Khil". Gar in local language mean ‘Anywhere’ and Khil means a central place where people could stay.

A farmland in Kargil lies straddled below the mountains and above a flowing stream.

Kargil remained relatively obscure right until the Partition of India when the issue of Kashmir became the focal point and resulted in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947. There were pitched battles fought around Kargil which saw the entire area including Drass and Zoji La Pass initially coming under Pakistan control before most of it being reclaimed by Indian troops by November 1948.[9] It remained with India after the ceasefire. It again saw some action in the Second Kashmir War with India managing to wrest back the reminder of the Kargil area twice. The first capture was on May 17, 1965, when skirmishes broke out in Rann of Kutch, and India retaliated in the Kashmir sector.[9] However, this had to be returned as per UNMOGIP treatise. On August 15, the same year Kargil fell to Indian forces, though it was once again returned as part of the Tashkent Agreement.[9] However in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 the entire Kargil region including key posts was captured by Indian troops under leadership of Col. Chewang Rinchen .[10] In order to straighten out the line of control in the area, the Indian Army launched night attacks when the ground temperatures sank to below -17º and about 15 enemy posts located at height of 16,000 feet and more were captured.[11] After Pakistan forces lost the war and agreed to the Shimla Agreement, Kargil and other strategic areas nearby remained with India.[12] Kargil became a separate district in the Ladakh region during the year 1979 when it was bifurcated from the Leh district.

The area shot into the spotlight in spring of 1999, when under a covert plan hatched by the then Army Chief Pervez Musharraf, armed infiltrators from Pakistan, aided by the Pakistani army, occupied vacant high posts belonging to India in the Kargil and Drass regions. The result was a limited scale conflict (Kargil War) between both nuclear equipped nations that ended with India regaining the Kargil region through military power and diplomatic pressure.

Administration[edit | edit source]

Kargil district consists of 9 blocks: Drass, Kargil, Shargole, Shaker-Chiktan, Gund Mangalpur- Trespone, Sankoo, Taisuroo, Zanskar, Lungnuk.[13] Each block consists of a number of panchayats.

Politics[edit | edit source]

Kargil District has two assembly constituencies, Zanskar and Kargil.[14] Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC) Kargil election was held in September 2008. For a smooth conduct of elections for the LAHDC Kargil, as many as 892 polling staff and more than 1,000 police personnel including para military forces have been deployed in Kargil district. Satesh Nehru is the present District Development Commissioner Kargil.

Autonomous Hill Council[edit | edit source]

Leh District is administered by an elected body known as the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council, Kargil. The LAHDC-K was established in 2003.

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. ^ "District Census 2011". 2011. Retrieved 2011-09-30. 
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ Pak considers Kargil-Skardu bus March 15, 2007 NDTV
  4. ^ a b c d e f "District Census 2011". 2011. Retrieved 2011-09-30. 
  5. ^ US Directorate of Intelligence. "Country Comparison:Population". Retrieved 2011-10-01. "Saint Lucia 161,557 July 2011 est." 
  6. ^
  7. ^ M. Paul Lewis, ed (2009). "Balti: A language of Pakistan". Ethnologue: Languages of the World (16th edition ed.). Dallas, Texas: SIL International. Retrieved 2011-09-28. 
  8. ^ Janet Rizvi. (1996). Ladakh: Crossroads of High Asia. Second Edition, pp. 210-211. Oxford University Press, Delhi. ISBN 019564546-4.
  9. ^ a b c Kargil: what might have happened By Javed Hussain October 21, 2006, Dawn
  10. ^ Assault on Enemy OPs in Kargil Posts that were returned in 1965 twice occupied again - A dramatized account of India's assault on Kargil during the 71 war hosted on The Liberation Times (A commemorative online newspaper)
  11. ^ The Lightning Concept by Major General D.K. Palit (Retd.)
  12. ^ The Armed Forces of Pakistan By Pervaiz Iqbal Cheema, Pg 4
  13. ^ Statement showing the number of blocks in respect of 22 Districts of Jammu and Kashmir State including newly Created Districts dated 2008-03-13, accessed 2008-08-30
  14. ^ "ERO's and AERO's". Chief Electoral Officer, Jammu and Kashmir. Retrieved 2008-08-28. 

Further reading[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

Literature[edit | edit source]

  • Shireen M. Mazari, The Kargil Conflict, 1999: Separating Fact from Fiction, The Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad (2003) ISBN 9698772006

External links[edit | edit source]

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Coordinates: 34°34′N 76°06′E / 34.57, 76.1

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