The Hindu – Lieutenant Governors take charge in Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh

Amit Baruah

Srinagar – Jammu & Kashmir – India, 31 October 2019. Girish Murmu sworn in as J&K’s first Lieutenant Governor; R K Mathur takes over as Ladakh Lieutenant Governor.

Jammu and Kashmir became the first State of the Indian Union to be reduced to a Union Territory (UT), with former IAS officer Girish Murmu being sworn in as its first Lieutenant Governor (LG) on Thursday .

Bifurcated from the former State, Ladakh also became a UT, with former civil servant R K Mathur taking over as its Lieutenant Governor in Leh.

The Kashmir Valley saw a complete shutdown, as Mr Murmu, a Gujarat cadre IAS officer handpicked by the Centre, became the new executive authority of the UT, which will now be directly administered by the Union Home Ministry.

Former Chief Ministers Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti continue to be under detention from August 4, a day before the Rajya Sabha voted to end special status to J&K.

The Indian Union now has 28 States and nine UTs. J&K’s State Constitution has also ceased to operate.

Hours before the swearing-in ceremony at the Raj Bhavan, on the outskirts of Srinagar, this correspondent saw all roads leading to it being sealed off by security forces. There was heavy security in the area.

All shops and business establishments downed their shutters and no private vehicles could be seen plying in the city. In the weeks gone by, shops were open in the morning hours and their shutters were downed by 10 am. But on Thursday, all of them were all closed.

Residents of the Kashmir Valley continue to have no access to both fixed-line and mobile Internet services, which were snapped on the midnight of 04 August.

Anger on the streets

There was palpable anger on the streets. A bunch of people told this correspondent on Residency Road that ending their special status was an “act of betrayal” by the BJP government at the Centre.

“No bandh call has been given by separatists or militants, but people have spontaneously downed the shutters in protest against the ending of our special status. It is the people who have taken over as leaders of this movement,” one shopkeeper, who took this correspondent to his shuttered shop, said.

“How can we believe that full statehood will be restored to us when so many promises made to us on autonomy have been flouted by the Government of India?” another shopkeeper, who preferred anonymity like his colleague, said.

Both the National Conference (NC) and the Peoples Democratic Party expressed their anguish over the change in J&K’s status. “Forcible division will neither change the unity and collective character of J&K, nor will it solve the Kashmir problem,” the NC said in a statement.

On 05 August, Union Home Minister Amit Shah said in the Rajya Sabha that the government would consider restoring full statehood to J&K if the Union Territory model worked well.

Interestingly, while the J&K UT will have a 114-member elected Assembly, up from 107 earlier, and a Chief Minister, the Ladakh UT will be controlled directly by the Lieutenant Governor.

Soon after being sworn in, Mr Mathur said, “We will chalk out a blueprint to push development in different sectors. Health and education will remain a key focus.”

With inputs from Peerzada Ashiq