India appoints first head of Jammu and Kashmir union territory

Special India appoints first head of Jammu and Kashmir union territory
IAS officer Girish Chandra Murmu has been appointed the first lieutenant governor of the Union Territory (UT) of Jammu and Kashmir. (File/AFP0
Updated 26 October 2019

India appoints first head of Jammu and Kashmir union territory

India appoints first head of Jammu and Kashmir union territory
  • Follows decision to do away with the state’s special status on Aug. 5
  • It is the first time in independent India’s history that a full-fledged state has been downgraded into the status of a centrally-administered unit

New Delhi: IAS officer Girish Chandra Murmu has been appointed the first lieutenant governor of the Union Territory (UT) of Jammu and Kashmir, an official statement released on Friday said.
On Aug. 5, New Delhi abrogated Article 370 of the Indian constitution that gave a special autonomous status to Jammu and Kashmir. The move also bifurcated the state into two union territories (UT) of Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir. 
The UT is an administrative unit which is directly under the control of the central government with limited political power to the local legislative assembly. 
From Oct. 31, the status of the UT comes into play for Jammu and Kashmir and Buddhist-dominated Ladakh.
It is the first time in independent India’s history that a full-fledged state has been downgraded into the status of a centrally-administered unit. 
Murmu is a serving bureaucrat in the Finance Ministry and belongs to the administrative cadres of the western state of Gujarat, the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. 
Prior to being appointed to the Finance Ministry, Murmu was a principal secretary to Modi when he was the chief minister of Gujarat.
Political analysts in New Delhi said that Murmu enjoys the confidence of the prime minister and when Modi moved to Delhi after becoming the premier, he also brought Murmu to the national capital. 
The appointment of a close confidante of Modi as the administrative head of the UT of Jammu and Kashmir suggests that Modi could personally monitor the situation in the valley.
“Jammu and Kashmir governor Satya Pal Malik has been shifted to Goa, and expenditure secretary Girish Chandra Murmu will replace him in Srinagar as the Lt. governor of Jammu and Kashmir,” a press release issued from the president’s office on Friday evening read.
Ajay Sadhotra, a leader of National Conference, the oldest and the largest party of Jammu and Kashmir, said: “It is very sad and unfortunate day for the people of Jammu and Kashmir.”
“It pains me as a politician that the status of Jammu and Kashmir as a state has been downgraded. It is the first time in the political history of India that a state has been relegated to the position of UT,” he said.
“I hope that the Indian PM takes corrective steps to restore the statehood of the state. Any decision taken without involving the stakeholders will not succeed,” Sadhotra told Arab News.
He added: “If New Delhi is serious about restoring normalcy in the state it should immediately release the detained political leaders, engage them in dialogue and reach out to the people and correct some of the political missteps taken by the government on Aug. 5.”
Srinagar-based Altaf Thakur, of the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party, said: “The appointment of an experienced bureaucrat as a Lt. governor of the new UT is a welcome move and his appointment will also help in handling the security problem of the state.”
“The state has lacked in development and the status of the UT is meant to address the issue of development in the state,” Thakur said. “(That) there is less scope for political activities in a union territory is not true.” 
“In other union territories there is a vibrant political landscape and I am sure in Jammu and Kashmir there would be scope for politics. But the idea of declaring the state a union territory is to make it a developed state,” he said.
However, according to Srinagar-based political analyst, Prof. Sheikh Showkat Hussain of the Central University of Jammu and Kashmir, “downgrading the political status of the state could further worsen the situation in the valley.”
“With the declaration of the union territory, Jammu and Kashmir becomes like a municipal corporation with hardly any political power to the local government. It is the center that becomes the master of the state.”
“For the regional parties now there are only two options — either you join hands with the separatists or become a stooge of New Delhi,” Hussain said.
He told Arab News: “The central government thinks that by abrogating the special status of Jammu and Kashmir the state has been integrated into the Indian union, the reality is that people of the state have become further alienated. The political turmoil has further worsened and future has become further uncertain.”