India puts Modi loyalist in charge of Kashmir

Sunbd Desk || Published: 2020-08-07 05:18:42 || Updated: 2020-08-07 05:18:42

In a major administrative reshuffle following the first anniversary of Kashmir’s loss of autonomy, India on Thursday appointed a loyalist of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling party as the region’s new lieutenant governor.

Manoj Sinha, a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and former minister, replaces Girish Chandra Murmu, who abruptly resigned on Wednesday night.

“The president is pleased to appoint Manoj Sinha as lieutenant governor of Jammu and Kashmir,” Indian President Ram Nath Kovind announced early on Thursday.

After the announcement, Sinha immediately left for Kashmir’s capital Srinagar, telling reporters: “It’s a big responsibility.”

On Aug. 5 last year, New Delhi annulled Article 370 of India’s constitution, which had guaranteed Kashmir’s autonomy, and bifurcated the state into the Union Territory of Ladakh and the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.

A union territory’s legislative assembly is subservient to the lieutenant governor, who holds both administrative and political responsibility.

Sinha’s appointment came after authorities imposed a curfew in the Muslim-majority region on Wednesday to prevent street protests on the first anniversary of the revoking of its special status.

“The removal of the (previous) lieutenant governor is an acknowledgment of New Delhi’s policy failure in the past year,” Prof. Sheikh Showkat Hussain, who teaches human rights and international law at the University of Kashmir in Srinagar, told Arab News.

“Murmu is just a scapegoat,” he said.

Hussain described the new regional leader as “a hardcore Hindu leader belonging to the BJP.”

“Let’s see what’s the design behind sending such a political activist to Srinagar.”

Zaffar Choudhary, a Srinagar-based political analyst and editor of online news magazine the Dispatch, said New Delhi’s move may be a sign that political activity will be restored in the region.

The government’s representative is a “political man,” he said, unlike the previous lieutenant governor.

“By sending a full-time politician as the head of Jammu and Kashmir, New Delhi is perhaps preparing to restore the statehood of Jammu and Kashmir and start the political process,” Choudhary said.

However, Hussain argues the situation in the valley cannot be redeemed merely by changing the face of the government representative.

“Ordinary Kashmiris are more alienated and hostile than before the fateful day of Aug. 5,” he said.

“A sense of insecurity looms — it has overtaken even local Hindus in the Jammu region. Kashmir is more volatile than before. Its communication blockade and media censorship surpass global records, and there is a complete exclusion of local people from decision-making at every level.” ‍ArabNews

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