India’s gov’t revokes disputed Kashmir’s special status
NEW DELHI (AP) — India’s government revoked disputed Kashmir’s special status with a presidential order today as thousands of newly deployed troops arrived and some internet and phone services were cut in the restive Himalayan region where most people oppose Indian rule.
Home Minister Amit Shah announced the revocation amid an uproar in India’s Parliament and while Kashmir was under a security lockdown that kept thousands of people inside their homes.
The order revokes Article 370 of India’s Constitution, which gives the state of Jammu and Kashmir its own constitution and decision-making rights for all matters except for defense, communications and foreign affairs.
The article also forbids Indians outside the state from permanently settling, buying land, holding local government jobs and securing educational scholarships.
Critics of India’s Hindu nationalist-led government see the move as an attempt to dilute the demographics of Muslim-majority Kashmir with Hindu settlers.
The announcement came after Prime Minister Narendra Modi convened a Cabinet meeting and the government’s top-decision making body on security matters, the Cabinet Committee on Security, which he heads.
Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan and both claim the region in its entirety.
Two of the three wars India and Pakistan have fought since their independence from British rule were over Kashmir.
Pakistan’s foreign minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, told a Pakistani TV station on Monday from Saudi Arabia, where he is on a pilgrimage to Mecca, that Pakistan will step up diplomatic efforts to prevent the order from taking effect.
“India is playing a very dangerous game by changing the status of Kashmir through illegal acts,” he said.
In Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital, hundreds of Kashmiri activists rallied against the change in Kashmir’s status near the diplomatic enclave where India’s embassy is located.
Authorities kept demonstrators away from the building because of security concerns.
Ghulam Mohammad Safi, a prominent Kashmiri leader in Pakistan, urged the United Nations and the international community to help Kashmir achieve self-determination.
The president of the Pakistan-controlled portion of Kashmir, Sardar Masood Khan, also rejected the Indian presidential order and said it could lead to a war with Pakistan.
Despite the suspension of internet services, Jammu and Kashmir’s former chief minister, Mehbooba Mufi, tweeted that the Indian government’s decision is “illegal” and “unconstitutional.”
“Today marks the darkest day in Indian democracy,” Mufti wrote.
According to a copy of the order, the revocation of Article 370 will “come into force at once” and will “supersede the constitution.”
Shah also introduced the “Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Bill” which, if passed, would split the state into two union territories — Jammu and Kashmir, which will have an elected legislature, and Ladakh, which will be ruled directly by the central government without a legislature of its own.
Currently, the state of Jammu and Kashmir comprises three regions: Hindu-majority Jammu, Muslim-majority Kashmir and Buddhist-majority Ladakh.
India’s former finance minister, Arun Jaitley, hailed the government’s decision to remove Article 370, praising Modi and Shah for “correcting a historical blunder.”