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Asia-Pacific

India's withdrawal of Kashmir's special status sparks unrest

media A man holds a sign and shouts slogans during a protest after the government scrapped the special status for Kashmir, in New Delhi, India, 5 August 2019. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

The Indian government has revoked part of the constitution that gives special status to the disputed state of Kashmir. The unprecedented move is likely to spark unrest in the semi-autonomous Muslim-majority state.

On Sunday night, the Indian authorities put Kashmiri pro-India lawmakers, including three former state chief ministers, under house arrest, imposing a strict curfew. Thousands of additional Indian troops have been despatched to Indian-controlled Kashmir.

A broad communications blackout has left all of Jammu and Kashmir without access to internet or phone services.

India’s Interior Minister, Amit Shah, amid an uproar in India’s Parliament, said that New Delhi would revoke Article 370, which gives Kashmir the right to make its own laws.

Article 370 of India’s Constitution allows the state of Jammu and Kashmir its own constitution, a separate flag and independence over all matters except for foreign affairs, defence and communications.

For many Kashmiris, it was the main justification for being a part of India.

By revoking Article 370, the ruling Hindu nationalist party has irrevocably changed India's relationship with Kashmir.

Deployment of troops

In the past week, over 70,000 troops have been moving into Indian-controlled Kashmir, while a major annual Hindu pilgrimage to a mountain shrine in the region was called off.

On Friday, Indian authorities explained the move as a response to intelligence about a growing terror threat in the region and a possible fallout with nuclear-armed neighbour, Pakistan.

In an unprecedented move, the administration of Jammu and Kashmir issued an order asking Hindu pilgrims and tourists to leave Kashmir immediately because of the “prevailing security situation in the region”.

Thousands of pilgrims and tourists were evacuated over the weekend.

Black day for democracy

The mainstream politicians in Kashmir have termed it as an “aggression” against the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

5 August was "a black day for democracy when, like thieves, parliament took away what it had given to the people of Kashmir,” making India an “occupational force” in the region, according to former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti.

It’s a "total betrayal of the trust that the people of Jammu and Kashmir had reposed in India when the State acceded to it in 1947,”said Omar Abdullah, another former chief minister.

Pakistan has condemned India’s decision, saying it violated a United Nations' resolution.

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