SRINAGAR: At the stroke of the midnight hour on Wednesday, Jammu and Kashmir was bifurcated and converted into two Union Territories (UTs) with Lieutenant Governors (L-Gs) of the two newly-created UTs taking oath on Thursday.
“From midnight tonight, J&K will cease to exist as a state,” said General Administration Department (GAD) Secretary Farooq Ahmad Lone.
Jammu and Kashmir High Court Chief Justice Gita Mittal will administer the oath of office and secrecy to the Lt Governors of J&K and Ladakh UTs. “She will administer the oath of office and secrecy to R K Mathur as Lt Governor of Ladakh around 7.45 am in Leh. Around 12.45 pm, Girish Chander Murmu, who was Secretary Expenditure, will be administered the oath of office and secrecy of Lt Governor of J&K at Raj Bhavan in Srinagar,” Law Secretary Achel Sethi told this newspaper.
The Kashmir Valley and Kargil are expected to observe a shutdown on Thursday. While the Valley is witnessing spontaneous shutdown since August 5 against the ending of state’s special status, Kargil is observing a shutdown from October 29 to protest Governor Satya Pal Malik’s failure to fulfill the promises made to them.
OPINION | J&K, the Union territory: What now?
He had last month assured the people of Kargil that their 14-point demand, including rotating of the LG’s office and other offices, renaming Ladakh UT as ‘Leh and Ladakh UT’ and giving due share to Kargil would be done by October 31.
Ahead of the formal bifurcation of the state, there was speculation that the authorities would again suspend mobile services in the Valley to maintain law and order and foil protests. But Advisor to the Governor K Vijay Kumar rejected the speculation.
“These are all speculation. Mobile phone services won’t be suspended tomorrow,” he said. Kumar also said the authorities would not impose any kind of restrictions on the movement of people. However, a security official said adequate security measures would be put in place to ensure the day passes off peacefully without any untoward incident.
‘People in Kashmir want dignified peace’
Although the administration appears set, locals are consumed by a sense of anger and hurt. Abdul Rashid, the Kashmir Houseboat Owners Association general secretary, said the people were on a "silent protest since August 5. We don’t want to hurt anybody." Terming the scrapping of Article 370 and the bifurcation of J&K as a “dream crushed, Rashid said, "People want dignified and honourable peace. We are still hopeful of peace and we hope that things should be better."
A doctor in Srinagar said the people had lost their identity. “We were identified because of our statehood and our special status. But they have taken out our special status and statehood,” he said. A shop owner at a hotel next to the Dal Lake complained of the lack of tourists which had hit the hotel owners severely. "There are no guests at the hotel. Their loss of revenue has affected me as well as I have not been paid salary for the past three months."
PDP patron and former MP Muzaffar Hussain Baig said people of J&K feel that their identity has been snatched by scrapping of Article 370 and bifurcation of the State. On the silent protest in Valley, Baig said, “Silence can be very starry. It can be lull before the storm”.
J&K had been a state since 1948. From 1948 to 1951 National Conference patron Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah took over as Prime Minister of the State after J&K Constituency Assembly was elected and first elected government formed in 1951. J&K had its own Prime Minister and Sadr-e-Riyasat (State president) till 1962.
Land with UT government
Police and law and order in J&K will come under the direct control of Centre. According to the J&K Reorganisation Act, 2019, land — rights in or over it — will be with the elected UT government.
The way forward
The UT of J&K will have a legislature like Puducherry while Ladakh will be a UT without legislature. In the absence of an elected government in J&K, both the UTs will be headed by two separate LGs.
Mobiles will work
K Vijay Kumar, the advisor to Governor Satya Pal Malik, dismissed speculation. "Mobile services won’t be suspended on Thursday," he said.