Srinagar, October 31: As the clock struck 12 and a new day beckoned, Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday transitioned from a state into two union territories with a wary Valley shutting down as it has for 88 days and Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying the “new system” is aimed at “building a strong link of trust”.
President Ram Nath Kovind revoked President’s rule imposed in the restive state, long the centre of global attention, and took control of the administration of the two new union territories, Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.
This is the first time a state has been downsized into union territories, the two new entities taking the total number of UTs to nine and bringing down the number of states in India to 28.
The move is in accordance with the government’s August 5 announcement withdrawing the state’s special status under Article 370 and bifurcating the state into union territories.
Girish Chandra Murmu in Jammu and Kashmir and Radha Krishna Mathur in Ladakh stepped into history as the first lieutenant governors of the new union territories. Jammu and Kashmir High Court Chief Justice Gita Mittal administered the oath of office to the new appointees, first in Leh and then later in the day in Srinagar.
As the changes came into effect, the prime minister was at the Statue of Unity in Kevadiya in Gujarat where he paid glowing tributes to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel on his 144th birth anniversary and led the “national unity pledge”.
Defending the abrogation of Article 370, he said 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,” the prime minister 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.
In the Kashmir Valley, however, it was another day of shutdowns and tension with markets shut, deserted roads and children staying away from school as residents came to grips with the new identity of their homeland.
This is a decision against our interests. They have robbed us of our special status and our identity, said Muzammil Mohamad, a resident of Srinagar’s Civil Lines area.
Another local, Umer Zargar, described Kashmir as a disputed territory and India’s decision “illegal, immoral and unconstitutional .
India cannot abrogate Article 370. This issue is in the United Nations. There are resolutions on it. This decision in illegal, immoral and unconstitutional, he said.
For the third consecutive day, there were no vendors at a flea market near the Polo Ground in the centre of town. Roadside vendors, who had been regularly setting up their stalls for two months, have been away since Tuesday when a delegation of EU parliamentarians landed for a two-day visit to assess the situation.
Landline and post-paid mobile phone services have been restored across the valley, but all internet services continue to remain suspended since the night of August 4.
Most top-level and second-rung separatist politicians are in preventive custody while mainstream leaders, including two former chief ministers — Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti – have been either detained or placed under house arrest.
Lok Sabha MP from Srinagar Farooq Abdullah has been arrested under the controversial Public Safety act, a law enacted by his father and National Conference founder Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah in 1978 when he was the chief minister.
Addressing a gathering in the national capital, 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.
Politicians of the Valley also weighed in with their views.
BJP’s Jammu and Kashmir spokeperson Khalid Jehangir said the move will usher in peace and development in Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.
This transition is for peace, development and dignity and our prime minister’s vision of Jammu and Kashmir on the same lines will be achieved in the coming years with the blessings of the people of this nation, he said.
The National Conference, however, termed the Centre’s decision unconstitutional and not in the interest of the people of the country .
… The only power the Parliament has is to form a new state. Maybe Parliament can chip away a part of a state and create a new state. There is no power to make a state disappear, NC leader Justice (retd) Hasnain Masoodi told PTI.
With this move, the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir and the Ranbir Penal Code has ceased to exist.
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”.
The ministry’s Jammu and Kashmir division announced a slew of measures, including application of central laws to the state.
Jammu and Kashmir will have a legislature like Puducherry while Ladakh will be a union territory without legislature like Chandigarh.(PTI)