India’s government has moved to revoke the part of the constitution that gives Indian-administered Kashmir special status in an unprecedented move likely to spark unrest.
Article 370 is sensitive because it is what guarantees significant autonomy for the Muslim-majority state.
The entire region is disputed between India and Pakistan. Each claim it in full but control only parts of it.
There has been a long-running insurgency on the Indian side.
India and Pakistan, both nuclear powers, have fought two wars and a limited conflict over the Himalayan territory since the independence and partition of India in 1947.
Pakistan has condemned India’s decision to revoke the special status of its part of Kashmir as illegal, saying it would “exercise all possible options” to counter it.
“India is playing a dangerous game which will have serious consequences for regional peace and stability,” said Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi.
The move by the Hindu nationalist BJP government prompted outrage in parliament, and some legal experts have called it an attack on the constitution.
The state’s former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti said the revocation of Article 370 effectively made India an occupying force.
“Today marks the darkest day in Indian democracy,” she said in a tweet, adding that the government’s “unilateral decision” was “illegal and unconstitutional”.
During the partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947, Jammu and Kashmir, like other Muslim-majority regions, was expected to go to Pakistan.
But the ruler of the princely state, who had initially wanted to become independent, joined India in return for help against an invasion of tribesmen from Pakistan.
In 1949, a special provision was added to the constitution providing autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir.
Article 370 allows the state to have its own constitution, a separate flag and independence over all matters except foreign affairs, defence and communications.
Another provision later added under Article 370 – 35A – provides special privileges to permanent residents, including state government jobs and the exclusive right to own property in the state.
It is seen as protecting the state’s distinct demographic character as the only Muslim-majority state in India.
These benefits will be lost with the repeal of Article 370.
The Indian government announced a presidential order revoking all of Article 370 apart from one clause which says that the state is an integral part of India. It also proposed to divide the state into two regions.
Home Minister Amit Shah introduced the order in parliament amid massive protests from the opposition. He said it would become law as soon as it was signed by the president, as revoking the article only required a presidential order.
Soon after the announcement, the Ministry of Law and Justice released an unsigned presidential order spelling out the details of the proposed changes.
Changing Article 370 also requires the assent of the state government, but Jammu and Kashmir has been under the rule of a governor since June 2018 when the BJP pulled out of a state government coalition with the regional People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
This effectively means the state has been ruled directly by Delhi through a governor, who has agreed to the bills.
The changes are expected to be signed into law shortly.
Indian-administered Kashmir, home to about 12 million people, is in a state of lockdown.
Curfew-like conditions have been imposed, and orders preventing the assembly of more than four people have been introduced.
Tens of thousands of Indian troops were deployed to the region ahead of Monday’s announcement and tourists were told to leave under warnings of a terror threat.
The restriction of mobile networks and the internet have added to the sense of crisis and largely cut the region off from the rest of India.
In the hours before Monday’s announcement, two of the state’s former chief ministers – Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti – were placed under house arrest.