India abolishes Kashmir special status with rush decree

India abolishes Kashmir special status with rush decree

The Indian government has rushed through a presidential decree to scrap a special status for the disputed Kashmir region, hours after imposing a major security clampdown in the region.
Home Minister Amit Shah told parliament on Monday, amid strong opposition by members of the Congress party, that the president had signed a decree abolishing Article 370 of the constitution that gave special autonomy to the Muslim-majority Himalayan region.
The law, Article 370 of the Constitution, forbid Indians outside the state from permanently settling, buying land, holding local government jobs and securing education scholarships.
The decree said the measure came into force “at once”.
Critics of such a measure say that in doing away with Article 370, the government hopes to change India-administered Kashmir’s Muslim-majority demographics by allowing in a flood of new Hindu residents.
Shah also said the government also decided to split the state into two union territories – Jammu and Kashmir, which will have a legislature, and Ladakh, which will be ruled directly by the central government without a legislature of its own.
Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan and both claim the region in its entirety.
The Indian-administered part of the territory has been in the grip of an insurgency for three decades that has left tens of thousands dead.
On Sunday, former state chief minister Farooq Abdullah chaired a meeting of political leaders from the region, who issued a statement, warning “against any tinkering with the special status of the region” as guaranteed under Article 35A of the Indian constitution.
Article 35A of India’s constitution permits the local legislature in India-administered Kashmir to define permanent residents of the region. The article came into being in 1954 by a presidential order under the constitution’s Article 370.
The statement said the region’s political parties “remain united … in their resolve to protect the autonomy and special status” of Kashmir.
Article 35A had been challenged by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its right-wing allies through a series of petitions in India’s Supreme Court.
Last month, a senior BJP leader hinted that the government was planning to form exclusive Hindu settlements in the region.
On Sunday, parts of India-administered Kashmir were placed under lockdown and local politicians reportedly arrested as tensions intensify in the disputed region following a massive deployment of troops by the Indian government.
“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 Jammu and Kashmir, which is currently under the central rule, said on Sunday night.
The order said the indefinite security restrictions will be applicable in the main district of Srinagar.
Indian media reports said some pro-India leaders from the region, including former chief ministers Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah,have been placed under house arrest.
The measures came after the Indian government moved 10,000 troops to the region last week, followed by an unprecedented order asking tourists and Hindu pilgrims to leave the Himalayan valley.


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