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India revokes Kashmir's special status amid crackdown

India revokes Kashmir's special status

New Delhi -- India's Hindu-nationalist government revoked the special status of Indian administered Kashmir on Monday in a move that analysts say could cause unrest in the disputed Muslim-majority territory

Kashmir borders both India and Pakistan, and both countries control parts of it but claim it in full. Kashmir was divided between India and Pakistan after the two countries fought a war over the territory in 1947. 

Article 370 of the Indian constitution formed the basis of Kashmir's accession to India and gave the state of Jammu and Kashmir its own constitution and decision-making rights for everything apart from foreign affairs, communications, and defense. It also prevented Indians outside the state from permanently settling there and buying land. 

Indian Home Minister Amit Shah introduced the measure to revoke Article 370 in parliament on Monday. Though it was debated, Shah said Indian President Ram Nath Kovind had already signed the order, bringing it into effect "at once." The announcement was met with outrage by opposition politicians.

The Indian government also said it would "reorganize" Jammu and Kashmir state into two Union Territories: Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh. The move would bring the whole region under the direct control of the Indian central government, though the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir would have a legislature with very limited powers. 

The revocation of Article 370 and the bifurcation of the state is seen by some critics as an attempt by the Hindu-nationalist Indian government to shift the demographics of Muslim-majority Kashmir by allowing Hindu people to settle there. 

Troop build-up

Monday's announcement followed a massive troop build-up in Kashmir, with India sending at least 35,000 additional paramilitary soldiers to the state over the last ten days.

On Friday, the government cancelled a Hindu pilgrimage to a holy cave in the Himalayas, called the Amarnath Yatra, and asked all pilgrims and tourists in the state to leave "immediately." 

Some people in Kashmir, fearing a government crackdown, began stockpiling food, medicine, and fuel.

On Sunday night, the internet, TV, and phone lines were shut down in Kashmir, virtually cutting it off from the rest of the world. Restrictions on movement and assembly were put in place. Early Monday, at least 8,000 additional paramilitary soldiers were airlifted to the territory. 

Kashmir remained on security and information lockdown on Monday after it was announced that Article 370 had been revoked. Paramilitary and other security forces were densely deployed in the area to deal with protests that were expected to erupt once the information blackout was lifted. 

Meanwhile, celebrations were reported around other parts of India, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi scheduled to address the nation in the coming days.

In a statement, Pakistan said that, "no unilateral step by the Government of India can change [Kashmir's] disputed status... Pakistan will exercise all possible options to counter the illegal steps." 

The former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Mehbooba Mufti, reacted to the news by tweeting that the decision marked "the darkest say in Indian democracy."

Later, he tweeted: "Already under house arrest & not allowed to have visitors either. Not sure how long I'll be able to communicate. Is this the India we acceded to?"

Another former chief minister, Omar Abdullah said, "the decisions will have far-reaching and dangerous consequences."

Both former chief ministers were arrested and taken to jail later on Monday.

The move is expected to further strain relations between nuclear neighbors India and Pakistan, who have fought three wars on the issue of Kashmir.

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