G C Murmu sworn-in as first Lt Guv of bifurcated J&K

Representative image. (ANI photo)

Girish Chandra Murmu was sworn in as first lieutenant governor (LG) of Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday as the erstwhile state was officially bifurcated into union territories.

Murmu was administered the oath of office and secrecy by Justice Gita Mittal, Chief Justice of Jammu and Kashmir High Court, at a function held at Raj Bhavan, here, on Thursday afternoon. BVR Subrahmanyam, Chief Secretary, read the Warrant of Appointment.

Earlier in the day, RK Mathur was sworn in as first LG of the union territory of Ladakh by Justice Mittal in a simple ceremony. With this the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir ceased to exist on Thursday, making way for the two newly minted UTs of Ladakh, and Jammu and Kashmir.

The constitutional changes – revoking J&K’s autonomy under Article 370, separate citizenship law under Article 35A and bifurcation of the erstwhile state into two UTs, were approved by the parliament in the first week of August. Article 370, as the constitutional provision guaranteeing special status was known, allowed the region a certain amount of autonomy, including special privileges in property ownership, education and jobs. UTs have far less autonomy from the Central government than states do.

The UT of Jammu and Kashmir will have two divisions; Kashmir Valley and Jammu, an area of over 42,000 square kilometres with a population of 12.26 million, while vast territory of Ladakh, also known as the cold desert, spread over 59,000sq km comprises of two districts of Kargil and Leh and houses a tiny population of 274,289.

The new UT of J&K will have its own elected assembly with a five-year term, but most powers will be retained by the LG, who will be appointed by the Center while Ladakh UT will be under the direct administration of New Delhi with its own LG.

The reorganisation of the erstwhile state will significantly dilute the ability of Jammu and Kashmir representatives to govern their own affairs by making 106 central laws applicable to the region, including the Indian Penal Code (IPC). There is no clarity as yet, about the official language of the new UT. Under the now-scrapped Jammu and Kashmir Constitution, Urdu was the official language of the region. But the Indian Constitution recognizes Hindi as the official language.

However, the bifurcation of the erstwhile state takes place in the atmosphere of lingering stalemate. People’s discontent in Kashmir is simmering against the Centre following communication clampdown and restrictions, coupled with a shift in strategy by militants, who have now started killings truck drivers, labourers and apple traders from outside the Valley.

Most of the political leaders in Kashmir, including three former chief ministers – Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti – continue to remain detained since August 5.

While the central government has vowed to usher in development and normalcy, political observers say the absence of any leadership and growing discontent in Kashmir makes it imperative for the government to iron out differences with the people.

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