India’s government on Monday initiated a revocation of the special constitutional status of disputed Kashmir, hours after imposing a major security clampdown and deploying thousands of troops in the region.
Interior Minister Amit Shah told members of the upper house of parliament that the government has decided to repeal a law that gives special status to the Himalayan region of Jammu and Kashmirby presidential order.
Shah said that the government has 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.
The special status law, Article 370 of the Constitution, forbids Indians outside the state from permanently settling, buying land, holding local government jobs and securing education scholarships.
Shah said the long-standing rights that preceded India’s independence from British rule in 1947 were “temporary” and that the government would abolish them.
Critics of such a measure say that in doing away with Article 370, the government hopes to change Indian-controlled Kashmir’s Muslim-majority demographics by allowing in a flood of new Hindu residents.
Ahead of the announcement, the region has been put under a heavy security cover, with prohibitory orders in place against public assembly. Top pro-India leaders have been put under house arrest and internet and phone service have been cut.
Kashmir is divided between archrivals India and Pakistan but claimed by both in its entirety. The Indian-administered part of the territory has been in the grip of an insurgency for three decades that has left tens of thousands dead.