This article originally appeared on VICE India
The Indian government on Monday, August 5, introduced a resolution in the Rajya Sabha or the Upper House of the Parliament of India to revoke Article 370, which confers special status to the state of Jammu and Kashmir, despite uproar from the Opposition. In a bid to fully integrate its only Muslim-majority region with the rest of the country, this is the most far-reaching move the troubled Himalayan territory has seen in nearly seven decades.
Home Minister Amit Shah also moved a bill to bifurcate the state into two union territories—Jammu Kashmir as one and Ladakh as the other.
This move comes against the backdrop of an internet blockade and communication blackout in Kashmir since last night. Top political leaders in the state—Omar Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti and Sajad Lone—have also been placed under house arrest. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), had pushed for an end to Kashmir’s special constitutional status even in its manifesto, arguing that such laws had hindered its integration with the rest of India. But political leaders in Kashmir warned that repealing the law would trigger widespread unrest.
In effect, Article 370 says that the Parliament will need the state government’s concurrence for applying any law in the state, except those that fall in the domains of defence, foreign affairs, finance and communications. This means that issues like ownership of property, fundamental rights and citizenship are covered under a separate law for Jammu and Kashmir. How the removal of the law pans out in practice, though, still remains to be seen.
Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, who is currently under house arrest, slammed the move.
"It will have catastrophic consequences for the subcontinent. GOIs (Government of India) intentions are clear. They want the territory of J&K by terrorising its people. India has failed Kashmir in keeping its promises," she said.
But BJP leaders expectedly welcomed the move. BJP national general secretary Ram Madhav wrote on Twitter:
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.” He also tweeted:
Jamyang Tsering Namgyal, BJP MP from Ladakh, was also quoted as saying by news agency ANI, “I welcome the Bill on behalf of everyone in Ladakh. People there wanted the region to be a Union Territory. People in Ladakh wanted that the region be freed from the dominance and discrimination of Kashmir, that is happening today.”
Meanwhile, the government continues to induct more troops into the Kashmir valley. 8,000 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) troops were reportedly airlifted from different parts of the country and moved into Kashmir. In the days before today’s announcement, the government moved 35,000 additional troops to Jammu and Kashmir.
The sudden appearance of forces in the last week of July sparked panic in the Valley. The authorities also stepped up security deployment at vital installations and sensitive areas amid heightened terror threat and flare-up of hostilities with Pakistan along the Line of Control (LoC). The communications lockdown continues as of publication time. Tourists have also been asked to leave the area as well.
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