- India on Monday revoked part of its constitution that established the quasi-independence of Kashmir, a disputed region between India and Pakistan.
- The articles had allowed Kashmir to make its own laws and barred non-Kashmiris from moving there or working for its government.
- The state will now be directly under the control of India’s federal government in New Delhi.
- Over the weekend, Indian authorities sent thousands of troops into the already heavily militarised region and told tourists to get out.
- India also cut off internet access and put local political figures under house arrest.
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India has shut off the internet, placed politicians under house arrest, and ordered tourists to leave the disputed region of Kashmir, and on Monday it annulled part of its constitution that gave the region a large degree of independence from the rest of the country.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government on Monday revoked Articles 35A and 370, which gave the state of Jammu and Kashmir a special status that allowed it to make its own laws.
India wants to reorganise it into two territories – Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh – that would be governed by the federal authorities in New Delhi as opposed to individual state governors.
Pakistan’s foreign ministry says it will “exercise all possible options to counter the illegal steps.”
History of the powder-keg region
Jammu and Kashmir’s quasi-independence dates back to 1927, when the region’s administration allowed its subjects to have a separate set of rules for inheriting property.
After India and Pakistan separated in 1947, the maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir chose to become part of India, and Article 370 of the Indian Constitution preserved its special status. This angered Pakistan, which supported many insurgencies in the region.
Pakistan continues to claim Jammu and Kashmir as its own territory.
The constitutional provision also blocked Indians from outside the region from living there, owning property, or getting government jobs. It also prohibits women from inheriting property if they marry someone from outside the state.
Modi’s right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party has argued that constitutional provisions regarding Jammu and Kashmir’s special status are temporary and has long vowed to revoke them.
During general elections this May, the party said the special status was “discriminatory against non-permanent residents and women of Kashmir.”
It added: “We believe that Article 35A is an obstacle in the development of the state.”
The party won those elections by a landslide, increasing its seats in Parliament.
Control of Jammu and Kashmir is split among India, Pakistan, and China. The area remains heavily contested between India and Pakistan.
Many of the region’s residents, who are mostly Muslim, hope for independence or to be ruled by Pakistan, the BBC reported. It is one of the most heavily militarised areas in the world.
The longstanding tensions over Kashmir reignited in February after a suicide attack killed 44 Indian paramilitary officers in the Indian-controlled side of the region.
Troops move in as tourists stream out
Since Friday, India has moved thousands of troops into Kashmir and placed heavy restrictions on the daily life of its 7 million residents, citing an impending terror threat.
Thousands of tourists and Indian students have been fleeing the region per government orders, the AP reported.
But many Kashmiris doubted the claims of an impending terrorist attack and wondered whether there were other reasons for the sudden increase in troops in the region, The Times said.
The Indian army also on Sunday fired along the line of control that divides Kashmir into Indian and Pakistani territory, wounding one woman, the AP reported, citing Pakistani police.
Indian authorities in the region also shut off the internet and cut phone service in many households over the weekend.
Blocking these communications is a common strategy to prevent people from organising demonstrations and to stop the spread of news that may be unfavorable to the government, according to the AP.
Some people, however, were able to bypass the internet ban. The Indian state-owned BSNL telcom provider sold satellite phones to journalists on the ground for 100,000 rupees (about $US1,420) apiece so they could continue reporting.
Indian officials also placed top regional leaders, including the former chief ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, under house arrest amid the mounting tensions.
I believe I’m being placed under house arrest from midnight tonight & the process has already started for other mainstream leaders. No way of knowing if this is true but if it is then I’ll see all of you on the other side of whatever is in store. Allah save us ????????
— Omar Abdullah (@OmarAbdullah) August 4, 2019
“Today marks the darkest day in Indian democracy,” Mufti tweeted shortly after India scrapped the constitutional provisions for Jammu and Kashmir’s independence.
She later said that “the manner in which” Indian officials “want to bulldoze our special identity is illegal & makes India an occupational force.”
Will Trump play a part?
In a meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan last month, US President Donald Trump offered to mediate the Kashmir dispute between Pakistan and India.
In a Monday statement, Pakistan’s foreign ministry said it “strongly condemns and rejects” India’s actions on Monday and that the annulment of Kashmir’s special status violated UN Security Council resolutions.
“No unilateral step by the Government of India can change this disputed status, as enshrined in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions. Nor will this ever be acceptable to the people of Jammu & Kashmir and Pakistan,” the ministry said.
“As the party to this international dispute, Pakistan will exercise all possible options to counter the illegal steps.”
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