India on Monday revoked the special status of Kashmir in a bid to fully integrate its only Muslim-majority region with the rest of the country, the most far-reaching political move on the troubled Himalayan territory in nearly seven decades.
Interior Minister Amit Shah told parliament the federal government would scrap Article 370, a constitutional provision that grants a measure of autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir including the right to make its own laws.
"The entire constitution will be applicable to Jammu and Kashmir state," Shah said to loud protests from opposition lawmakers who were against the repeal.
The government also lifted a ban on property purchases by people from outside Jammu and Kashmir, opening the way for Indians to invest and settle there like any other part of India, a measure likely to provoke a backlash in the territory.
Tens of thousands of people have died in an armed revolt that erupted against Indian rule in 1989, with hundreds of thousands of Indian troops deployed to quell it.
The move is likely to increase tensions with Pakistan, which has claims to Kashmir and demands that India give the Kashmiri people the right to self-determination.
The divided Himalayan region is claimed by both Hindu-majority India and Muslim Pakistan and the nuclear-armed neighbours have gone to war twice over the territory since independence in 1947.
Tensions in Kashmir, claimed by both India and Pakistan, have risen since Friday, when local Indian officials issued an alert over possible militant attacks by Pakistan-based groups.
Pakistan has rejected those assertions, but thousands of Indian tourists, pilgrims and workers left the region in panic over the weekend.
Indian authorities also issued a notice for Srinagar city saying there "shall be no movement of (the) public and all educational institutions shall also remain closed" until further orders.
Three local government officials told Reuters early on Monday that mobile internet services in the region had been suspended. Reuters was not able to reach its reporters in the region as the communication networks were blocked.
Article 370: All you need to know
Home Minister Amit Shah on Monday proposed the abrogation of Art 370 in Jammu and Kashmir that grants special status to the state. This was preceded by a Cabinet meeting at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s residence in the morning.
The announcement followed weeks of speculation after Centre took several steps to ensure tight security in the state. On Sunday night restrictions were put on leaders, schools announced shut and internet snapped.
Here is a look at Art 370 and Art 35 A and what it means:
Article 370 of the Constitution grants special status to Jammu and Kashmir, while Article 35A empowers the state legislature to define the state’s “permanent residents” and their special rights and privileges.
What is Article 35A?
Article 35A, which was incorporated in the Constitution by a 1954 Presidential Order, gives special rights and privileges to the citizens of Jammu and Kashmir.
It denies property rights to a woman who marries a person from outside the state. The provision, which leads to such women from the state forfeiting their right over property, also applies to their heirs.
It disallows people from outside the state from buying or owning immovable property there, settle permanently, or avail themselves of state-sponsored scholarship schemes. It also forbids the J-K. government from hiring people, who are non-permanent residents.
What is Article 370?
Article 370 of the Indian Constitution is a “temporary provision” which grants special autonomous status to Jammu and Kashmir. Jammu and Kashmir have been accorded special status under Article 370 under Part XXI of the Constitution, which deals with “Temporary, Transitional and Special provisions”. All the provisions of the Constitution which are applicable to other states are not applicable to J-K
Why and when Article 370 was introduced?
The state of Jammu & Kashmir's original accession, like all other princely states, was on three matters: defence, foreign affairs and communications.
All the princely states were invited to send representatives to India's Constituent Assembly, which was formulating a constitution for the whole of India.
They were also encouraged to set up constituent assemblies for their own states.
However, in May 1949, the rulers and chief ministers of all the states met and agreed that separate constitutions for the states were not necessary.
They accepted the Constitution of India as their own constitution. The states that did elect constituent assemblies suggested a few amendments which were accepted.
The position of all the states (or unions of states) thus became equivalent to that of regular Indian provinces. In particular, this meant that the subjects available for legislation by the central and state governments was uniform across India.
In the case of Jammu and Kashmir, the representatives to the Constituent Assembly requested that only those provisions of the Indian Constitution that corresponded to the original Instrument of Accession should be applied to the State.
Accordingly, the Article 370 was incorporated into the Indian Constitution, which stipulated that the other articles of the Constitution that gave powers to the Central Government would be applied to Jammu and Kashmir only with the concurrence of the State's constituent assembly.
This was a "temporary provision" in that its applicability was intended to last till the formulation and adoption of the State's constitution.
However, the State's constituent assembly dissolved itself on 25 January 1957 without recommending either abrogation or amendment of the Article 370.
Thus the Article has become a permanent feature of the Indian constitution, as confirmed by various rulings of the Supreme Court of India and the High Court of Jammu and Kashmir, the latest of which was in April 2018.
What is the controversy?
Several petitions, including the one filed by NGO We the Citizens, have challenged Article 35A’s legality in the Supreme Court on the grounds that it was never presented before Parliament and was implemented on the President’s orders in 1954.
The provision in Article 35A that grants special rights and privileges to permanent citizens appears in the Constitution as an “appendix”, and not as an amendment.
According to the NGO, Article 35A should be held “unconstitutional” as the President could not have “amended the Constitution” by way of the 1954 order and that it was only supposed to be a “temporary provision”. The Article was never presented before Parliament and came into effect immediately.
The Jammu and Kashmir government has contested the petition, saying the President had the power to incorporate a new provision in the Constitution by way of an order.
Several petitions, including those by political parties like the National Conference and the CPI(M), were also filed in the Supreme Court in support of Article 35A that also empowers the state assembly to define “permanent residents” for bestowing special rights and privileges to them.