The Indian government on Monday announced to repeal the special status given to the occupied Kashmir under the constitution’s Article 370, which is feared to spark unrest in the disputed territory.
The announcement was made after massive deployment of additional Indian soldiers by the Indian government and thousands of tourists and Hindu pilgrims had been forced out of the Himalayan valley.
Educational institutes have been closed, public gatherings banned and internet and cellular services suspended indefinitely in the occupied valley. Mainstream and separatist Kashmiri leaders alike placed under house arrest, including former J&K CMs Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah. Residents of the valley had stockpiled essential rations and fuel amid the security crackdown.
“As per the order there shall be no movement of public and all educational institutions shall also remain closed,” a statement by the government of J&K had said.
More than 700,000 documented military troops are deployed in the Muslim-majority region, where citizens and freedom fighters want freedom from India or merger with Pakistan. The tension between nuclear-armed neighbouring countries recently soared after India sent 10,000 more troops to the already most militarized region in the world.
Both Pakistan and India administer parts of Jammu and Kashmir, while they claim right over the full territory and have fought several battles over it.
The ruling Indian party, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had pledged to scrap the constitutional article favoring Kashmir.
Article 370 was scrapped overnight through presidential order, meaning special status for Jammu and Kashmir was removed. The disputed state has been bifurcated into Ladakh and Jammu & Kashmir and the parts have been made Union Territory – one without an assembly, while the other with an assembly respectively.
The Kashmir’s special status prevents people from outside of the state from buying land in the territory. Kashmiris fear that the intention behind abolishing the state’s special status was to engineer fundamental demographic changes in the Muslim-majority region. The lastest move by the Indian government has left people worried about an uncertain future.
“Now, the entire constitution will be applicable to Jammu and Kashmir state,” Home Minister Amit Shah had said while announcing the controversial presidential decree.
In October 1947, the then Maharaja of Kashmir Hari Singh had signed a Treaty of Accession with India which transfered the state’s power to the government of India in three matters: foreign affairs, defence and communications.
In March 1948, Hari Singh had appointed Sheikh Abdullah as prime minister of the interim government. Sheikh Abdullah in July 1949 joined the Indian Constituent Assembly and negotiated the special status of J&K, leading to the adoption of Article 370.
The Indian constitution’s Article 370 gives Jammu and Kashmir a more autonomous status. It allows the disputed state to have its own constitution, flag and liberty over different matters but foreign affairs, defence and communications. Under Article 370, citizens from other states cannot buy property in Jammu & Kashmir and the Centre has no power to declare a financial emergency in the state.
Pakistan has condemned and rejected the announcements made by the Indian government regarding the Indian Occupied Jammu & Kashmir, saying that it was an internationally recognized disputed territory.
“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,” said Spokesperson Ministry of Foreign Affairs Pakistan Mohammed Faisal.
As the party to this international dispute, Pakistan would exercise all possible options to counter the illegal steps, he added.
Pakistan has reaffirmed its abiding commitment to the Kashmir cause and its political, diplomatic and moral support to the people of Occupied Jammu and Kashmir for realization of their inalienable right to self-determination.