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India announces ‘big decision’ on Kashmir

Indian soldiers stands guard in Srinagar, India, Sunday, Aug. 4, 2019. (AP Photo/ Dar Yasin)

India’s national government has scrapped the special status for Jammu & Kashmir that allowed the state to have its own constitution and laws - the move coming in the wake of days of uncertainty that saw curfew-like situation in the Kashmir valley with mobile internet suspended and tens of thousands of additional troops being deployed.

India’s national government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi has scrapped an article of the constitution that accorded a special status to the state of Jammu & Kashmir.

Under Article 370, the Himalayan state was allowed to maintain its own constitution and its own set of laws. Union Home Minister of India, Amit Shah announced the move in the upper house of India’s parliament.

NDTV reported that the notification to scarp this provision had received the presidential ascent.

Mr Shah also anounced the bifurcation of the state to create two union territories - Ladakh and J&K - effectively placing them under the control of India’s union government.

The special status of the state was seen to be at the heart of restricting land ownership rights to the state subjects besides keeping government jobs and addmission to professional colleges to the long-term residents of the state.

Anticipating such a move, mainstream Kashmiri politicians, including former chief ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, who had been placed under house arrest on Sunday, resolved to stand up against diluting the special status for the state.

On the other side, the BJP has for decades called for scrapping special status for the state. The party had it in its 2019 election manifesto as well.

J&K is currently under the governor’s rule after the elected state government – a coalition of the nationalist BJP and Kashmir-centric People’s Democratic Party – fell apart over conflicting political positions of the coalition partners.

The move has come in the wake of the government cancelling the Amarnath pilgrimage for the first time and asking all pilgrims and tourists to leave the Kashmir valley, citing “terror threat”. Mobile internet services have been suspended and schools and colleges closed in Kashmir with tens of thousands of additional troops being deployed.  

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