As the first Lieutenant Governor of the new Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir took oath in Srinagar, the Kashmir Valley observed a complete shutdown on Thursday as it watched the state’s transition into a UT amid tight security and partial communication lockdown.
Street vendors stayed off the roads in Srinagar and private traffic was also thin as restrictions continued for the 88th consecutive day. Over the last three days, shops and business establishments have remained shut even in the morning hours — they opened for a few hours in the morning in the weeks before.
“This is for the first time in the history of country that a state has been downgraded. People even today don’t understand how things are going to change on ground because it is the first of its sort in the history of India. Three months have passed and so far we have seen only business bleeding,” said Sheikh Aashiq, president of Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI), who was not invited to the Lt Governor’s swearing-in ceremony even as his Jammu counterpart Rakesh Gupta attended the event on Thursday.
“As a Kashmiri and president of KCCI, I want to say only one thing that today they say history has been created… but on the ground there is a complete shutdown, shops are closed and traffic is off the roads. This is how a Kashmiri person is reacting to the decision… I feel everyone is disappointed.”
Professor Noor Baba, a political expert in Srinagar, believes the “unilateral action” by the government has “humiliated” and “hurt” people in the Valley. “They are disappointed and they feel humiliated because of the unilateral action that the government of India has taken. People are on protest without any call by anyone. The action has been imposed on people from above and people were not taken on board. Delhi is saying that it is a good decision, but this statement should have come from the people in Kashmir,” he said. “Everybody can sense the mood… We are seeing the longest continuous shutdown. There is no transport, schools and colleges are not functioning the way they should… all this is coming from people as a reaction,” Baba said.
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J&K High Court advocate Naseem Qadri said the government’s decision has evoked a feeling that “something has been snatched from the people”. “Everyone in Kashmir has the same opinion today because it is visible as there is a complete shutdown… No one here is happy with the bifurcation of the state and scrapping of the special status. I feel something has been snatched from us,” he said, adding “the state has lost its identity today”.
Mohammad Barjees, an MBBS student from Srinagar, said, “The Centre has been running the affairs of the state for some time now. But has it changed anything? No… this is the saddest day of my life.”