Jammu and Kashmir transitioned into its new identity as Girish Chandra Murmu took oath as the first lieutenant governor on Thursday. With Murmu's swearing-in, the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir officialy came into existance following the bifurcation of the Jammu and Kashmir state into two union territories. The oath of office to Murmu, who will turn 60 next month, was administered by Jammu and Kashmir Chief Justice Gita Mittal at a simple function held at Raj Bhawan at the foothills of the Zaberwan range. Hours earlier, Mittal has administered a similar oath to RK Mathur in Leh- as the first lieutenant governor of Ladakh.
Earlier, at midnight, Jammu and Kashmir transitioned from a state into two union territories. President Ram Nath Kovind revoked President's rule imposed in the restive state, long the centre of global attention, and took over control of the administration of the two new union territories, Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.
This is the first time that a state is being 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. This was 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.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, at the Statue of Unity in Kevadiya in Gujarat where he paid glowing tributes to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel on his 144th birth anniversary, defended the abrogation of Article 370 saying the special status provisions only 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.
Meanwhile, addressing a gathering in the national capital, Union Home Minister Amit Shah said Article 370 and Article 35A were the gateway of terrorism into Jammu and Kashmir. Modi closed the gateway by repealing them, he said.
In the Kashmir Valley, however, it was another day of shutdowns and tension with markets shut, deserted roads and children staying away from school. For the third consecutive day, no vendors set up stalls on the TRC Chowk-Lal Chowk road, the officials said. The roadside vendors, who had regularly set up their stalls over the past two months, have not been turning up for business 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 continued to remain suspended since the night of August 4.
Most top-level and second-rung separatist politicians have been taken into 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.
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 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.
(With PTI Inputs)