Jammu happy, Kashmiris miffed as J-K becomes UT

A sense of despondency pervades the valley after Jammu and Kashmir was downsized to a Union territory following abrogation of Article 370 nearly three months ago, as most people feel the Centre‘s move is an “assault” on their identity.

IMAGE: Security personnel keep vigil at Lal Chowk after bifurcation of the Jammu and Kashmir state came into existence, in Srinagar. Photograph: S. Irfan/PTI Photo

The transition from the state into two Union territories of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh on Thursday was met with a complete shutdown in the the valley as shops and other business establishments were shut, and public transport were off the roads.

Many in Kashmir are miffed with the Centre‘s decision, saying it was against the interests of the people of the valley.

“This is a decision against our interests. They have robbed us of our special status and our identity,” Muzammil Mohammad, a resident of the civil lines area of Srinagar, said.

Mohammad said the Centre‘s assertion that people here are happy with the decision was a “blatant lie”.

“Who is happy here? Do you see anyone happy here except for the leaders and workers of the BJP?” he asked. “People of Kashmir did not want this. We are sad that the government has done it and whatever they are saying is a blatant lie.”

 

Firdous Ahmad, a shopkeeper who has been partially opening his shop for a few hours because of the shutdown, said the Centre‘s move was a “betrayal” with the people of Kashmir.

“The government has sent Kashmir into an unimaginable chaos,” he said.

According to Ahmad, people are observing the shutdown themselves for the past three months and it is not due to any strike called by separatists.

“Had the government not done this, the situation would not have been like it is. Who is to blame for this?” the shopkeeper asked.

The Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry has said the valley had suffered losses to the tune of over Rs 10,000 crore due to the three-month-long shutdown.

A businessman in the Boulevard area of Srinagar who chose not be identified said it would be difficult for the valley to recover the losses.

“Everything was going very well. The tourists were coming, the fruit season was on, new business were coming up and many start-ups were also taking shape,” he said. “But now, everything has come to a grinding halt.”

The businessman pointed out that this was for the first time a state had been downgraded into a Union territory. “It was the other way round till now and this is very sad.”

Parveena Akhtar, a homemaker, also blamed the Centre for the prevalent situation in the valley.

“This time, there is no call for strike, so they cannot blame us for the prevalent situation,” Akhtar said. “This situation is not good and people, especially the youth, are very angry. We do not know what is going to happen tomorrow.”

IMAGE: Indian tricolour flag flies atop Civil Secretariat, in Srinagar. Photograph: S. Irfan/PTI Photo

Another local, Umer Zargar, described the Centre‘s decision to abrogate Article 370 as “illegal, immoral and unconstitutional.”

“India cannot abrogate Article 370. This territory is disputed, this issue is in the United Nations and there are various resolutions on it,” he said.

Zargar, however, underlined that making the state a Union territory or removing Article 370 hardly mattered to the people of the valley as the decision cannot change “the basic disputed nature of Kashmir”.

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“The dispute remains and India cannot suppress the truth. However, this seems to be a sinister design for engineering a demographic change in the valley,” he said.

Meanwhile, people in Jammu region largely welcomed the transition and some of them even said they hoped to look towards an end to an “era of discrimination” under the new setup.

But there were also some who protested against the decision to withdraw the special status of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 and downgrading of its status to a UT.

Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party activists led by its chairman and former minister Harsh Dev Singh held a massive rally at the Exhibition Ground.

For most people, the emotional satisfaction of the end of the Kashmir-centric rule weighed heavy, despite the downgrading of the erstwhile status of a state.

In Jammu city, people burst crackers, beat drums and took out celebratory rallies in in Talab Tilloo, Dogra Hall, Trikuta Nagar, Muthi, Janipur and old city areas.

“We are very happy for reorganisation of Jammu and Kashmir state into UTs. Although we wanted a separate Jammu state, still we are very happy to get a UT to end the era of discrimination by Kashmir-centric rulers,” Jammu University student Vikas Sharma said.

He hoped it would be the beginning of a new era of peace, progress and prosperity, when investments, industries and employment will increase and politics of separatism and terrorism will end.

IMAGE:  A security jawan keeps vigil near the Raj Bhavan. Photograph: S. Irfan/PTI Photo

Like him, ex-serviceman Pratap Singh Jamwal said people of Jammu are happy even though the status was demoted from a state carved out by Dogra rulers.

“We hope the new dispensation will do justice to the region and ensure end of the rule of supremacy of Kashmir region over Jammu people,” he said.

Another resident, Sardar Santok Singh, expressed reservation over the downgrading of state to UT, but said direct governance under the Centre will ensure that money sent is spent properly and security issues are addressed without compromise, to stamp out terrorism and separatism.

“We will have now large investment. Big industries will come. Children will have more opportunity, jobs. The work culture will change and corruption will end”, Singh said.

Kuldeep Kumar, a driver by profession, said it is a time for celebration as Jammu will grow faster and there will be more development. “If you have a spoiled child, you have to punish him to bring him on the line. The Centre did that,” Kumar said.

Not everyone was amused by the decision, however.

Calling the decision to downgrade the status of JK “authoritarian and perverse”, the protesters at the Exhibition Ground raised the slogans: “Tanashahi nahi chalegi”, “Hitler raj nahi chalega”, “Lt. Governor go back”, and “State ka darja bahal karo”.

JKNPP‘s Harsh Dev Singh described October 31 as a ‘Black Day‘ when the 200-year-old Dogra state was converted into two Union territories. He said the government move amounted to a “cruel joke” and dishonoured the decision of Maharaja Hari Sigh, the Dogra ruler of the erstwhile state.

Saleem Choudhary, a resident of Bhatindi area, too opposed the decision to downgrade the state to a UT and said, “We have lost our identity as well as we got demoted.”

“We will see whether this decision is a landmark success or a great blunder. Time will only tell us,” he said.

Stepping into the record books, G C Murmu was sworn in as the first LG of Jammu and Kashmir, and R K Mathur of Ladakh. Mathur took oath in Leh and Murmu in Srinagar.

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