First day of the new UT: Kashmir seethes in anger against downgrading of J&K

Srinagar: When the nation was celebrating the complete merger of Jammu and Kashmir with the Union of India, the valley was observing a hartal. The anger was palpable on the streets of Srinagar against the abrogation Article 370 and downgrading of the state under the Reorganisation Act.

It was after 72 years that a full-fledged state was divided into two union territories — Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh. While UT of J&K will have a legislature, Ladakh will be directly ruled by the Centre through Lieutenant Governor.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s close aide and his former principal secretary Girish Chander Murmu took oath as the first Lieutenant-Governor of the new UT of Jammu and Kashmir. Former Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) Radha Krishna Mathur took oath as the first LG of the union territory of Ladakh.

Born on November 21, 1959, Murmu holds a Masters in Political Science from Utkal University and MBA from University of Birmingham. Hailing from Sundargarh in Odisha, the low-key but shrewd bureaucrat has been the go-to man for Prime Minister Modi as well as Union Home Minister Amit Shah.

A 1977 batch IAS officer of Tripura cadre, Mathur retired as the Chief Information Commissioner of India (CIC) in November 2018. He has also served as a Defence Secretary, Union Secretary of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises and the Chief Secretary of Tripura.

Kashmir observed a complete strike against the division of the state. All the markets remained closed even during a three-hour relaxation period. For the last 88 days, shops have been opening for three hours every morning to allow people to buy essentials. During the day, markets remain shut to protest against the abrogation of the special status.

Thursday was a day when even roadside vendors did not open their stalls seemingly in protest against the downgrading of the state into two union territories. “More than one lakh people have lost jobs. We have suffered losses worth Rs 1 lakh crore,” said Sheikh Ashiq Ahmad, President of Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Unlike the past, no former Chief Minister was present during the oath ceremony. Three former CMs — Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti – have been jailed since August 5 when the Centre abolished the special status. Even former MLAs, ministers and second-rung leaders of main political parties have been detained. Only BJP leaders, bureaucrats, police, army and paramilitary officers were present during the swearing-in ceremony.

Under the new UT, police, law and order will be under the direct control of the Centre while the land will be under the elected government. Radio Kashmir Srinagar will now be rechristened as All India Radio, Srinagar. Raj Bhawan will now be called Raj Niwas. State Human Rights Commission, State Accountability Commission, Women and Child Protection Commission and others will cease to exist.

“Let us rise above political affiliations and party ideologies and give vent to the legitimate aspirations of people before the country leadership as a single entity in the large interest of Jammu which is feeling a sense of loss on the downgrading of the state as a union territory,” said Devender Singh Rana, provincial president of National Conference.

Ishfaq Ul Hassan

An accredited journalist with 22 years of professional experience, Ishfaq-Ul-Hassan has worked as a reporter based in Kashmir for two decades. He has covered various beats including militancy, politics, defence, minorities, social issues, religious groups and women issues in Kashmir. He had previously worked as Special Correspondent in Jammu and Kashmir for DNA (Daily News and Analysis) Newspaper for 13 years. Ishfaq is also associated with the New Delhi- based television company `Asia Pacific Communication Associates’ which produced the famous series “Subah-Bakhar-Kashmir” for satellite Kashmir channel of Doordarshan. In 2004, he was awarded the Charkha-Sanjoy Ghosh Fellowship for Peace and Development for his research on families divided across the LOC in Kashmir.

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