Srinagar: The state of Jammu and Kashmir formally split into two Union Territories (UTs) on Thursday amid swelling anger among the predominantly Muslim Valley, trepidation and reservations in sections of Jammu’s Hindu population and jubilation among Ladakh’s Buddhists.
While Mr Murmu took oath as the first Lt Governor of the UT of J&K in Hindi at a function at the Raj Bhavan in Srinagar, his counterpart, Mr Mathur, was administered the oath of office and secrecy by Justice Gita Mittal, chief justice of J&K High Court, at a similar function held earlier in Leh. He took the oath in English.
A complete shutdown was observed in Kashmir Valley to protest bifurcation of the state. Many people interviewed by this correspondent termed it “a stab in the back”.
The division and downgrade came on the 88th day after the Centre withdrew the state’s special status by abrogating Article 370 and announced its bifurcation.
The August 5 decision was subsequently ratified by Parliament but spark-ed off a political row with the Opposition terming it a politically and ideologically motivated move of the ruling BJP. The move has been challenged in the Supreme Court filed by various political and civil groups and activists.
This is for the first time that a state has been converted into two UTs even though there are numerous instances of a UT becoming a full state or a state being bifurcated into two states, like Bihar and Madhya Pradesh.
The two new entities take the total number of UTs to nine and bring down the number of states in India to 28.
The BJP has called J&K’s reorganisation “historic” and a tribute to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel on his birth anniversary.
The Prime Minister, who was at the Statue of Unity in Kevadiya, Gujarat, on Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel’s 144th birth anniversary, defended the abrogation of Article 370 by saying that the special status provisions generated terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir.
“The new system in Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh is not meant to draw a line on the land (to draw a boundary) but to build a strong link of trust,” Modi said.
“Patel had once said that had he handled the Kashmir issue, it would not have taken so long to resolve it,” Modi said in a veiled swipe at first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, often blamed for the Kashmir issue by the ruling BJP.
As J&K — which has been part of the Union of India since its accession to it in 1947 — ceased to be a state and formally bifurcated into two UTs, two IAS officers, Girish Chandra Murmu and Radha Krishna Mathur, were on Thursday sworn-in as Lieutenant Governors of J&K and Ladakh, respectively.
There is growing apprehension among people in the Valley that the main motive behind the Centre scrapping Article 370 and Article 35A could be to pave the way for “outsiders” to get their hands on the land and other immovable properties in J&K in the run-up to change the demography of the Muslim-majority (erstwhile) state.
Former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti tweeted, “While Kashmiris mourn massacre of J&K, the same development is a source of sadistic pleasure to rest of India. The emotional gulf that exists between you and we couldn’t be any wider. You violated our consent and rights but will never control how we feel. Long live Kashmir, Insha’Allah (God willing)”.
She also posted the official flag of the erstwhile state which has since been removed from all government buildings and other locations.
Mufti is among the several Kashmiri politicians who were detained on the night of August 4 and has no access to the Internet. Her Twitter handle is being operated by her daughter Iltija.
Addressing a gathering in Delhi, Union home minister Amit Shah said Article 370 and Article 35A were the gateways of terrorism into Jammu and Kashmir. “Modi closed the gateway by repealing them,” he said.
In a late-night notification on Wednesday, the home ministry replaced the state of Jammu and Kashmir with the “Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir” and announced the omission of “permanent residents or hereditary state subjects”.
Jammu and Kashmir will have a legislature like Puducherry while Ladakh will be a union territory without legislature like Chandigarh.