The Indian government has rushed through a presidential decree to scrap a special status for India-administered Kashmir, the most far-reaching political move on the disputed region in nearly seven decades.
Home Minister Amit Shah told parliament on Monday that the president had signed a decree abolishing Article 370 of the constitution that gave a measure of autonomy to the Muslim-majority Himalayan region.
“The entire constitution will be applicable to Jammu and Kashmir state,” Shah said to loud protests from opposition legislators who were against the repeal.
Article 370 of the constitution forbid Indians outside the state from permanently settling, buying land, holding local government jobs and securing education scholarships.
The decree, which was issued hours after imposing a major security clampdown in the disputed region, said the measure came into force “at once”.
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.
Shah said the government also decided to split the state 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.
Despite the blackout on internet services in the region, Jammu and Kashmir’s former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufi tweeted that the government’s decision was “illegal” and “unconstitutional”.
“Today marks the darkest day in Indian democracy,” Mufti wrote.
Regional parties in Jammu and Kashmir had earlier called attempts to revoke Article 370 an aggression against the 7 million people living in the disputed region.
The law dates to 1927, when an order by the administration of the-then princely state of Jammu and Kashmir gave the state’s subjects exclusive hereditary rights.
The Indian-administered part of the territory has been in the grip of a rebellion for three decades that has left tens of thousands dead.
On Sunday, parts of India-administered Kashmir were placed under lockdown and local politicians reportedly arrested amid growing tensions following a massive deployment of troops by the Indian government.
India moved nearly 10,000 troops to the region last week, followed by an unprecedented order asking tourists and Hindu pilgrims to leave the Himalayan valley.
SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES