India says it will end decades-long autonomy for Kashmir

The Indian government said Monday it’s terminating a special status given to predominantly Muslim Kashmir, threatening the region’s autonomy it’s maintained for decades.

Supporters of India’s Bharatiya Janata Party celebrate Monday after the government said it will end special status for Kashmir. Photo by Sanjeev Gupta

The Hindu nationalist-led Bharatiya Janata Party campaigned on removing Kashmir’s special status during its last elections that allowed Prime Minister Narendra Modi to remain in power. India sent extra troops to Kashmir ahead of the announcement, closing schools and shutting down Internet service.

The government said it would support a proposal to divide Kashmir and Jammu into separate territories. The two are located in the southern portion of Kashmir in the Himalayan mountains, where it shares a border with Pakistan.

India’s Home Minister Amit Shah announced the change Monday, revoking Article 370 of the Indian Constitution in the upper house of Parliament. The territories were given the special status in 1954, which allowed them to operate semi-autonomously.

Article 370, however, included language to allow the president to end the special status, which President Ram Nath Kovind acted on Monday.

The decision brought harsh words from opponents and critics.

“Today the people of Jammu & Kashmir who reposed their faith in institutions of India like parliament & Supreme Court feel defeated & betrayed,” Mehbooba Mufti, president of the Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Democratic Party, said on Twitter.

“By dismembering the state & fraudulently taking away what is rightfully & legally ours, they have further complicated the Kashmir dispute.”

“The momentous decision taken by the government of India ends a huge ambiguity about Kashmir,” said former Karnataka chief minister S.M. Krishna. “This step ensures the completion of the integration of India.”

ByClyde Hughes