India will formally split up disputed Jammu and Kashmir state into two federal territories on Thursday (Oct 31), aiming to tighten its grip on the restive region that has been in the grip of a harsh security clampdown for nearly three months.
Street protests against the measures have erupted sporadically, while a dozen people have been martyred in recent weeks.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government withdrew Kashmir’s autonomy in August. In addition, it also announced the division of the state into two territories to be directly ruled from New Delhi – one consisting of Jammu and Kashmir and the other the remote Buddhist enclave of Ladakh.
At the same time, it poured thousands of more troops into the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley, where separatists have been fighting against Indian rule for decades, and made sweeping arrests to prevent any outbreak of violence.
The government also imposed severe restrictions on travel and cut telephone and Internet lines.
Schools and colleges are empty and most shops, restaurants and hotels shut. Hundreds of people, including mainstream political leaders and separatists fighting for Kashmir’s secession from India, remain in custody for fear that they could whip up mass protests.
Crowds have also been gathering this week in the streets of Srinagar, the biggest city in Kashmir, and elsewhere, throwing stones at security forces in protest against the continuing clampdown.
On Thursday, Mr G.C. Murmu, a former bureaucrat from Mr Modi’s home state of Gujarat, will be sworn in as the first lieutenant-governor of the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir, the government said.
Another former civil servant, Mr Radha Krishna Mathur, will take office as the lieutenant-governor of Ladakh, the Buddhist-dominated high altitude region that has long sought to disentangle itself from Kashmir, on grounds that the turmoil there had hurt its own growth prospects.