In a controversial move, India’s current Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government, led by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has revoked the special status of Kashmir, one of the world’s most militarized regions and the only Muslim-majority region under India’s control.
On August 5, Indian Home Minister Amit Shah announced that India would scrap Article 370, a provision of Indian Constitution which allows Indian-administered Kashmir, to make its own laws. Kashmir officially goes by the name ‘Jammu and Kashmir’ in India.
The government also lifted a ban on property purchases by non-Kashmiris. This lift was intended to pave the way for citizens in other parts of India to settle there.
Immediately before the announcement, the local leaders were arrested, telecommunication and internet services were suspended, and restriction was imposed on public movement. Thousands of troops were sent to quell any possible unrest.
Since 1949, the Article 370 of the Indian Constitution has given autonomy to the Indian-administered-Kashmir to conduct its own affairs. Under this constitutional provision, the region could govern itself in most aspects of public affairs, except in areas like foreign policy and defense, and had its own constitution and flag.
The constitutional provision served as the foundation for Kashmir joining India more than 70 years ago.
Different parts of Kashmir are administered by China, India and Pakistan. While China claims a smaller portion of the Himalayan region, India claims the entire region as part of its sovereign territory.
Pakistan, on the other hand, claims almost the entirety of Kashmir, except the parts that Pakistan had ceded to China under the 1963 Sino-Pakistan Frontier/Boundary Agreement.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan said that the move was in clear violation of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions on the region. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged India and Pakistan to exercise restraint. The human rights groups from around the world were quick to condemn the actions.
Update (August 6, 2019): A day after the announcement, both houses of Indian Parliament has passed the decision on August 6. This means, Kashmir – more precisely the part that India administers – will turn from a state to a union territory, allowing the central government to have more control over all affairs of the region. On the same day, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying has, in an official statement, criticized the move.