In August, the government of India made a controversial decision.
It decided to abolish the special status given to Kashmir for the past 70 years. Kashmir, a state at the northernmost tip of the Indian subcontinent, has been the center of a dispute between India and Pakistan for decades.
Indian authorities have imposed a curfew that requires the state's residents to be indoors at certain times of the day. Several local politicians have been put under house arrest. A blackout in Kashmir has cut off all communication with the outside world and media were stopped from reporting about the disputed region. India has also deployed tens of thousands of troops across the Kashmir Valley.
This week, at the annual U.N General Assembly Meeting that is taking place in New York, Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan plans to appeal to the United Nations to intervene. Let's understand what happened.
A State With A Special Status
Currently, both India and Pakistan control parts of the Himalayan region of Kashmir that lies at the northernmost tip of the Indian subcontinent. The territories are recognized internationally as either “Indian-administered” or “Pakistan-administered.” To understand how Kashmir was divided between the two countries, read our earlier article HERE.
Even though Indian-Kashmir is administered by India, it has enjoyed a special status. Article 370, introduced in 1949 after India became independent, excused Jammu and Kashmir from the Indian Constitution. It allowed the region to make its own laws -- except in finance, defense, and foreign affairs. Article 370 denied rights in the region to any outsiders and as a result, Indian citizens from other states were not allowed to purchase land or property in Jammu and Kashmir.
Another controversial law, Article 35A, allows the local government in Indian-administered Kashmir to define the state’s “permanent residents.” All identified residents are issued a permanent resident certificate with special benefits, including the right to own and buy property in the state.
Explaining The Controversy
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) had long opposed Article 370. They argue that revoking it was purely administrative and necessary to integrate Kashmir and make it one with the rest of India. Some say that the attack by a Pakistani terrorist group in February that killed 40 Indian soldiers may have led to this decision.
Kashmir has always been a majority-Muslim state, and in the 1990s, the small Hindu population was mostly driven out. Kashmiris believe that the BJP wants to change the demographics of the region by allowing non-Kashmiris to buy land there. India's opposition party has called the move by the ruling BJP party a catastrophic step. Reports of Indian army raiding neighborhoods and arresting young people have been surfacing from the region.
Pakistan has already started to downgrade its diplomatic ties with India and its leaders. Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has warned that there could be "widespread massacre once the curfew is lifted." Meanwhile, the international community is reluctant to act because of Pakistan's support for many terrorist groups in the region.
All eyes will be on Kashmir over the next few months to see how this tense situation develops.
Sources: Washington Post, NY Times, Al Jazeera, BBC, Times Of India