From midnight, Jammu and Kashmir transitions into two union territories
On Thursday, India will wake up to one state less and 2 union territories more as Presidential proclamation of August 9 giving assent to the bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories comes into effect.
The day will be marked by G C Murmu, a former bureaucrat from PM Modi’s home state of Gujarat, being sworn in as the first lieutenant governor of the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir. Another former civil servant, Radha Krishna Mathur, will take office as the lieutenant governor of Ladakh, the Buddhist-dominated region.
While UT of Ladakh will not have an assembly and will be directly governed by the Union Home Ministry through the L-G, Kashmir will have an assembly and will largely work along the lines of the Delhi model but rules to govern the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019 are yet to be notified.
Interestingly, the new UTs will be born on the National Unity Day, the birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel who was India’s first home minister and a freedom fighter.
The bold and far-reaching decision was one of the key promises of the Bharatiya Janata Party in the run up to May 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The BJP came back to power with a thumping majority with the party alone winning 303 seats in the 543-member Lok Sabha, well past the 288 seats of 2014. The NDA ended up with 352 seats.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his team took charge on May 30 and on August 5, in the first Parliament session of the new Lok Sabha, the all-important announcement on Jammu and Kashmir was made after mainline political leaders were detained, the state had been put under communication lockdown and other security restrictions that were withdrawn over next two and a half months. The Valley still does not have internet connectivity and pre-paid mobile phones are not operational but the aftermath of the move has been largely peaceful.
Three days after the far-reaching decision to abrogate the special status and bifurcate the state, Prime Minister Modi, in a nearly 40-minute televised address to the nation, sought to assuage concerns of the people saying Centre was with the people of the state and that their welfare was of utmost importance.
The government also made its intentions clear by ramping up measures to promote tourism and infrastructure investment in the new UTs.
The opinion on the government’s move was sharply divided with many calling it ‘bold but risky’. While many experts said the step would help amalgamate Kashmir better with the rest of India, others felt it would lead to alienation as Kashmiris felt humiliated on their ‘special status’ being taken away.
The Opposition while criticized the government over the way it went about implementing the historic step. Opposition delegation led by Congress leader Rahul Gandhi landed in Srinagar after being invited by Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik. However, the group was not allowed to step into the Valley and was sent back. Gandhi raised several questions as to what was the government trying to hide from the people and the Opposition that they were sent back from the airport itself.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan tried his best to internationalise the issue, including at the UN, but with limited success with country after country saying that Kashmir is an internal issue of India. The rare closed-door consultations on Kashmir by the UN Security Council ended without any outcome or statement from the powerful 15-nation UN organ, dealing a huge blow to Pakistan and its all-weather ally China to internationalise the issue.