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Prime Minister Modi government breaks only Muslim-majority state into 2 units

India moves to remove all special provisions to Kashmir

Kashmir (BT) – India on Monday scrapped the special status granted to disputed region of Jammu and Kashmir in a move likely to raise tensions in the insurgency-hit region. 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his election campaign earlier this year promised to remove this special status granted to India’s only Muslim-majority state which allowed it autonomy in exchange of joining the Indian union after independence in 1947. 

Speaking in the upper house of the Parliament in New Delhi on Monday, India’s Interior Minister Amit Shah proposed amendments removing Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, that allowed citizens of the Muslim-majority state to enact its own laws, local broadcaster NDTV reported. The special provision also protected its citizenship law that disallowed outsiders to settle and own land in the disputed territory.

The amendment was moved along with an official order issued by President Ram Nath Kovind which enforced it at once. Jammu and Kashmir has been under presidential rule since last July which gives unprecedented powers to the central government to rule over the insurgency-hit region.

Shah, who represents the ruling Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), introduced another bill that divides the territory in two centrally administered regions. The two units, which will be called “union territories”, will be ruled by two lieutenant governors appointed by the central government. 

Until now, Jammu and Kashmir had its own flag and its local assembly of 87 members had powers to legislate new laws and decide who could be a citizen of the region. All of that has been scrapped. 

Besides, the region of over 12 million people has been bifurcated into two “Union Territories (UT)” — Jammu & Kashmir UT and Ladakh UT — which will be directly ruled by the central government. 

Jammu and Kashmir UT will have a local assembly with limited powers, while Ladakh UT will have no such provision.

– Strong protests in parliament

Leaders of the main opposition Indian National Congress party raised slogans against the government, while criticizing the move. 

Two Kashmiri parliamentarians Nazir Ahmad Laway and Mir Mohammad Fayaz shouted slogans and one of them even tore his ‘kurta’ (shirt). 

Later, as the protests heated up, the duo tore copies of the Constitution.

Talking to reporters outside the parliament, former Interior Minister and Congress lawmaker P Chidambaram said that it was the “worst day in constitutional history of India”.

Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, who is under house arrest, tweeted: “Today the people of Jammu & Kashmir who reposed their faith in institutions of Indialike parliament & Supreme Court feel defeated & betrayed. By dismembering the state & fraudulently taking away what is rightfully & legally ours, they have further complicated the Kashmir dispute.” 

India over the past fortnight sent more than 35,000 new troops to the disputed region apparently to quell any rebellion. An additional 8,000 troops were called in on Monday.

While almost all resistance leadership has already been jailed or put under house arrest, Indian government in an unprecedented measure detained pro-India politicians in their houses. 

Internet, cell phone and TV services have reportedly been blocked. 

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