The State of Jammu and Kashmir will be divided into two Union Territories on Thursday, despite street protests against the decision.

The Central Government withdrew the State’s autonomy in August but in addition it also announced the division of the State into two Union Territories - Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh.

The Government also imposed severe restrictions on travel and cut telephone and internet lines. Some measures have been scaled back but a security lockdown is still largely in place and broadband and mobile internet connections remain unavailable to most Kashmiris.

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 that have in the past turned violent.

Wajahat Habibullah, a former bureaucrat who served in Kashmir and travelled to the region's main city last month, said Kashmiris felt humiliated to lose their statehood.

“Whatever the attitude of (federal) governments in the past, they at least felt they had something of their own. Now, there is a kind of feeling of having lost whatever freedom they had,” he said.

On Tuesday, suspected militants fighting in Kashmir shot dead five construction workers.

Officials said the killings appeared to be part of a campaign to deter outsiders from working in Kashmir. Truckers involved in the apple trade were targeted earlier in the month, also in the southern part of Kashmir, a hotbed of militant activity.

Crowds have also been gathering this week in the streets of Srinagar and elsewhere, throwing stones at security forces in protest against the continuing clampdown.

New territories

On Thursday, G C Murmu, a former bureaucrat from Gujarat, will be sworn in as the first lieutenant governor of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, the Central Government said.

Another former civil servant, Radha Krishna Mathur, will take office as the lieutenant governor of Ladakh.

The Modi administration is hoping to ramp up tourism and infrastructure investment in Ladakh, known for its snow capped peaks and rocky desert plateaus.

There are also expectations that the takeover by the Central Government will lead to the development and shift the focus away from the Kashmir valley.

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