On 5 August 2019, the Government of India announced that it was abrogating articles 370 and 35A of the Indian Constitution that accorded special status and rights to the state of Jammu & Kashmir. The announcement also added that the state would be bifurcated into two union territories - one called Jammu & Kashmir and the other Ladakh, which would include the Kargil district. This bifurcation was formally effected on the midnight of 31 October 2019.
The bifurcation was clearly motivated by political considerations and prompted by the failure of successive Indian governments to resolve the festering revolt and continued insurgency in the Kashmir Valley. Majority public opinion in India seemed to favour a hardline on the Kashmir insurgency and oppose the continued demand for independence by vocal and influential groups in the Kashmir Valley.
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi had promised to take a hard line on Kashmir in its election manifesto. It had promised to abrogate articles 370 and 35A in order to end the state's special status and tendency to assert its independence and separateness from the rest of India. The BJP government felt that the abrogation of these articles and the bifurcation of the state would force the state to integrate with the rest of India and make life difficult for the Separatists in the Kashmir Valley. Prime Minister Modi sought and received the Indian Parliament's approval of the move and the subsequent Jammu & Kashmir Reorganisation Act 2019 gazetted on 9 August 2019 (view pdf of the Act here).
The move to convert the state into two union territories will effectively bring this contentious region under the direct control of New Delhi and severely pair the powers of any elected government. Crucially, the law enforcement set up would now be directly controlled by the Union Home Ministry which is currently headed by Prime Minister Modi's confidant, Amit Shah. The bureaucracy too would be under New Delhi's control.
This move effectiely strips the state of J&K of all its autonomy and makes it like any other state in India. Constitutional safeguards and special rights to the people of the state have also been removed. Restrictions like the prohibition on outsiders buying property in the state will no longer apply and all national development schemes will be applicable in the newly constituted UTs. This dramatic change is certain to be resisted by local politicians in the Kashmir Valley which is why all prominent political leaders in the Valley including former chief ministers have been put under detention ever since the move was announced on 5 August.
The Ladakh Union Territory, which is populated by Buddhists and Shia Muslims, has seen mixed reactions to the bifurcation. The town of Leh, which is Buddhist dominated and which will serve as the headquarters of the Ladakh UT, witnessed celebrations while the Shia dominated Kargil town observed a shutdown in protest against the decision to make Leh the permanent headquarters of the newly constituted UT. The people of Kargil seek equal importance in the scheme of things in the new UT but do not seem opposed to the separation from J&K. Similarly, there has been no major protest against the bifurcation of the state in the Jammu region of the newly created J&K UT.
Creation of two new Union Territories
Jammu and Kashmir ceased to be a state on 1 November 2019 within the Indian union and was officially split into two union territories. Two new Lieutenant Governors, one for Jammu and Kashmir and the other for Ladakh were sworn-in at separate functions in Srinagar and Leh. The swearing-in was conducted by the Chief Justice of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court, Justice Gita Mittal. The central government appointed serving IAS officer of Gujarat cadre Girish Chandra Murmu as the L-G of Jammu and Kashmir, and retired bureaucrat of Tripura cadre Radha Krishna Mathur as the L-G of Ladakh.
According to news reports, the electoral promise of the BJP to end the special status of Jammu and Kashmir came less than 90 days after the Modi 2.0 government assumed power in end May. The August 5 decision was taken 72 years after the then ruler of the princely state, Maharaja Hari Singh, executed the Instrument of Accession on October 26, 1947, making the princely state part of the Union of India. The two UTs came into existence on the birth anniversary of the country's first Home Minister of India, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, who is credited for merger of over 560 states into the Union of India.
Two days after the state of Jammu and Kashmir was officially bifurcated into the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh, the Union Home Ministry on 2 November 2019 released the new political map of the country showing 28 states and nine Union Territories. Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday transitioned from a state into the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh. It was reported that the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir will have a legislature like Puducherry, while Ladakh will be a Union Territory without a legislature like Chandigarh. Both will be headed by separate Lieutenant Governors.
Jammu & Kashmir Union Territory
Even though the official map of J&K UT includes the districts of Muzaffarabad and Mirpur, these two districts are actually situated in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. The UT can be divided into two main regions as in the past - the Kashmir Valley division and the Jammu region division. The Jammu division consists of the districts of Poonch, Rajouri, Riasi, Jammu, Sana, Kathua, Udhampur, Ramban, Doda and Kishtwar, The Kashmir division consists of the districts of Kupwara, Bandipora, Baramulla, Ganderbal, Srinagar, Badgam, Kulgam, Shopian, Pulwama and Anantnag. IAS officer Girish Chandra Murmu was appointed the first Lt Governor of Jammu and Kashmir UT.
Ladakh Union Territory
As per the Ladakh UT administration, the newly constituted union territory comprises two districts - Ladakh and Kargil. The former is the larger of the two districts in area but smaller in population. Leh District area is 45,110 sq km with a oopulation (2011 Census) of 1,33,487 spread across 16 blocks and 113 villages while Kargil district has an area of 14,036 sq km with a population (2011 Census) of 1,40,802 spread across 15 blocks and 129 villages. Retired bureaucrat Radha Krishna Mathur was appointed the UT's first Lieutenant Governor.