India’s government has rushed a decree through parliament on Monday revoking the constitutional status of disputed Kashmir signed under the treaty of accession.
The presidential order came amid uproar in Parliament and huge troop deployment in the region with internet and phone services suspended.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Home Minister Amit Shah told members of the upper house that the government has also decided to split the disputed region 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.
Shah, said the long-standing rights that preceded India’s independence from British rule in 1947 were “temporary.”
Article 35A of India’s constitution permits the local legislature in Indian-controlled 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, which grants special autonomous status to Jammu and Kashmir state.
The law, Article 370 of the Constitution, forbids Indians outside the state from permanently settling, buying land, holding local government jobs and securing education scholarships.
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.
Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan and both claim the region in its entirety.
How did Article 35A come about?
A 1927 order by the administration of the state of Jammu and Kashmir gave the state’s subjects exclusive hereditary rights.
Two months after India won independence from British rule in August 1947, Maharaja Hari Singh, the then ruler of Jammu and Kashmir, signed a Treaty of Accession for the state to join the rest of the union, formalized in Article 370 of the Indian constitution.
Further discussions culminated in the 1952 Delhi Agreement, a presidential order that extended Indian citizenship to the residents of the state but left the maharaja’s privileges for residents intact.
Then Governor-General and last Viceroy Lord Mountbatten backed his decision with an understanding that this would only be temporary accession prior to “a referendum or a plebiscite.”
Under the accession terms, India’s jurisdiction was to extend to Kashmir’s external affairs, defense and communications.
Authorities placed large parts of the disputed region under lockdown amid a massive troop build-up by India, which traded accusations of clashes with Pakistan at the de facto border.
The recent tensions started in the last 10 days after New Delhi deployed at least 10,000 troops, but a security source told AFP news agency a further 70,000 had been dispatched in what is believed to be an unprecedented level.
“As per the order there shall be no movement of public and all educational institutions shall also remain closed,” the state government ordered for Srinagar, the capital of India-administered Kashmir, and surrounding areas, in a statement obtained by AFP.
“There will be a complete bar on holding any kind of public meetings or rallies during the period of operation of this order.”
Universities, schools, and colleges in southern Hindu-dominated Jammu were ordered to be shut, and one district in that region was placed under lockdown.
Several other major districts of the Muslim-majority state were also placed under restrictions, local media reported.
Pakistan warns against India ‘misadventure’
Pakistan’s civil and military leadership on Sunday warned India that Islamabad would respond to any “misadventure” or aggression against Pakistan.
The warning came in a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office in the capital Islamabad after a meeting of the National Security Committee, a forum of top civil and military official, chaired by Premier Imran Khan.
“Pakistan remains ready to defend itself against any Indian misadventure or aggression and will continue to provide all-out diplomatic, moral and political support to the brave people of IOJ&K (Indian-occupied Jammu & Kashmir) [or India-administered Kashmir] in their indigenous struggle to get justice and their right to self-determination in line with UNSC resolutions,” the statement said.
Khan summoned the urgent NSC meeting to discuss the current situation after Pakistan on Saturday claimed that Indian forces used cluster munitions on civilians near the Line of Control (LoC) the de facto border dividing disputed Kashmir.
Tensions between India and Pakistan over Kashmir have the potential to become a regional crisis and it is the right time for US President Donald Trump to mediate, Khan said.