India scraps special status for Kashmir

Aditya Kalra and Sanjeev Miglani
India has scrapped the special constitutional status of Kashmir

India has 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.

Home 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, as 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.

The constitutional provisions revoked on Monday were introduced decades ago and included reserved government jobs and college placements for residents, in an effort to keep the state from being overrun by people from the rest of India.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his associates had pushed for radical political changes in Jammu and Kashmir even before he won a re-election in May, arguing the old laws had hindered its integration with the rest of India.

The government also said it would split the state into two federal territories - Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh - adding that the decision reflected the prevailing internal security situation.

India's federal government announced the changes hours after a security crackdown began in Kashmir.

Telephone and internet services remained suspended and movement of public in the main Srinagar city has been restricted since midnight. Some regional leaders were put under house arrest around midnight.

In Pakistani-controlled areas of the region, there was anger at India, but also at Islamabad for not preventing the move.