- 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 banned 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-militarized region, and told tourists to get out.
- India also shut down the internet 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 after 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 of its constitution, which gave the state of Jammu and Kashmir a “special” status that allowed it to make its own laws.
The state will now be reorganized into two territories — Jammu and Kashmir being one, and Ladakh being the other. The regions will be governed by the Indian federal authorities in New Delhi as opposed to individual state governors.
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 maharajah of Jammu and Kashmir chose to become part of India, with Article 370 of the Indian Constitution preserving 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 (BJP) argue 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 BJP 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 BJP won those elections by a landslide, increasing its seats in parliament.
Jammu and Kashmir are currently split between 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-militarized areas in the world.
The longstanding tensions over Kashmir reignited in February after a suicide attack killed 44 Indian paramilitary police in the Indian-controlled side of the region.
Read more: Here’s what life is like on the border between India and Pakistan, one of the world’s most disputed regions
Troops move in as tourists stream out
India has moved thousands of troops into Kashmir and placed heavy restrictions on the daily life of its 7 million resident since Friday, citing an impending terror threat.
Indian Army officials said Pakistan-based militants were planning an attack on the approximately 300,000 Hindus who were in the region for an annual pilgrimage, The Associated Press (AP) and The New York Times reported.
Thousands of tourists and students have been fleeing the region per government orders, the AP reported.
But many Kashmiris doubted the claims of an impending terror attack and wondered if there were other reasons for the sudden troop increase in the region.
The Indian army also fired along the Line of Control — which divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan on Sunday — and wounded one woman, the AP reported, citing Pakistani police.
Indian authorities in the region also shut off the internet and cut landlines in many households over the weekend.
Blocking communications is a common strategy to prevent people from organizing anti-India demonstration and to stop the spreading of news that may be unsavory to the government, according to the AP.
Some people were able to bypass the internet ban, however. The Indian state-owned BSNL telcom provider sold satellite phones to journalists on the ground for 100,000 rupees ($1,419) apiece so they could continue reporting.
Indian officials also placed top regional leaders, including 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.
“The manner in which they [Indian officials] want to bulldoze our special identity is illegal & makes India an occupational force,” she later said.
Will Trump play a part?
US President Donald Trump offered to mediate the Kashmir dispute between Pakistan and India last week in a meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan two weeks ago.
Khan appeared to take up Trump’s offer on Sunday after Indian troops moved into the region, warning in a tweet: “This has the potential to blow up into a regional crisis.”
Read more: Trump’s casual offer to mediate the Kashmir dispute reveals a disastrous misunderstanding of the powder-keg region
Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Monday said that India’s annulment of the two articles violates UN Security Council resolutions, India Today reported.
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