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Indian Government Moves To Revoke Disputed Kashmir's Special Status


Indian paramilitary soldiers stand guard during curfew-like restrictions in Jammu on August 5.

India's government has moved to revoke the special status of Indian-administered Kashmir after sending thousands of troops into the restive Himalayan region and cutting phone and Internet services in the region.

Pakistan has condemned the move as violating a United Nations resolution.

Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan, with both claiming the region in its entirety. Two of the three wars India and Pakistan have fought since their independence from British rule were over Kashmir.

The clampdown began in the early hours of August 5, when Indian authorities said they were slapping restrictions on public movement and closing all schools in Srinagar, the region's main city.

Pakistani police on August 4 said Indian shelling along the Line of Control (LoC) that separates Kashmir between the nuclear rivals wounded a woman, as ongoing skirmishes spread fear in border villages.

A day earlier, Pakistan accused India of killing two civilians and wounding 11 through the use of illegal cluster bombs, an allegation India denied.

In recent days, India has deployed at least 10,000 troops to Kashmir. Media reports have said a further 25,000 have been ordered to the region.

'Unconstitutional' Revocation

Home Minister Amit Shah announced the revocation in parliament on August 5 amid massive protests from the opposition and said it would become law as soon as it was signed by India's president.

The decision has been widely criticized by legal experts, some calling it an attack on the constitution.

Shah's statement came after Prime Minister Narendra Modi convened a cabinet meeting and the government's top decision-making body on security matters, the Cabinet Committee on Security, which he heads.

Soon after the announcement, the Ministry of Law and Justice released an unsigned presidential order laying out the envisaged changes.

The revoked law, Article 370 of the constitution, allows Indian state Jammu and Kashmir to have its own constitution, flag, and decision-making rights for all matters except for defense, communications, and foreign affairs.

Article 370 also forbids Indians from outside the state of 12 million from permanently settling, buying land, holding local government jobs, or securing education scholarships.

Article 370 is sensitive because it guarantees significant autonomy for the Muslim-majority state.

Critics of India's Hindu nationalist-led government see the move as a bid to dilute the demographics of Muslim-majority Kashmir with Hindu settlers.

There has been a long-running insurgency on the Indian side of the disputed territory.

According to a copy of the order, the revocation of Article 370 will "come into force at once" and will "supersede the constitution."

The former chief minister of the state, Mehbooba Mufti, said the move effectively made India an occupying force. She tweeted that the government's decision was "illegal" and "unconstitutional."

"Today marks the darkest day in Indian democracy," Mufti tweeted.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi told Pakistani television the move violated UN Security Council Resolution 47, which concerns the resolution of the Kashmir conflict.

Qureshi, who's on a pilgrimage to Mecca, said that Pakistan would step up diplomatic efforts to prevent the revocation from coming into effect.

Tensions have escalated in the mountainous region since a vehicle laden with explosives rammed into an Indian police convoy on February 14, killing 40 paramilitary policemen, and leading to aerial clashes between the two nations.

Thousands of Indian students and visitors were fleeing the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir on August 3 after the local government issued a security alert related to possible militant attacks in the disputed territory.

Indian security officials on August 2 said they had found evidence of attacks planned by Pakistani military-backed militants on a major Hindu pilgrimage in Kashmir.

Pakistan's prime minister, Imran Khan, condemned the latest shelling by India, warning on Twitter that the situation had the potential to "blow up into a regional crisis." He said that "the only road to peace and security in South Asia runs through a peaceful and just settlement of Kashmir."

Khan said the time was right to take Trump up on his offer to mediate the dispute over Kashmir.

"President Trump offered to mediate on Kashmir. This is the time to do so as situation deteriorates there and along the LoC with new aggressive actions being taken by Indian occupation forces," Khan said on Twitter.

Trump last month told reporters that India's Modi had asked him if he would like to be a mediator on Kashmir.

However, New Delhi later denied Modi ever asked for mediation, and India has long rejected any suggestion of third-party involvement in resolving the Kashmir issue.

India's Foreign Ministry and the White House did not immediately comment on Khan's remarks.

With reporting by AP, BBC, and Dawn