India shut off the internet and ordered tourists to leave the hotly contested Kashmir region, in a risky bid to end its quasi-independence




 

Mukesh Gupta/Reuters


India has shut off the internet, placed politicians under house arrest, and ordered tourists to leave the disputed region of Kashmir, and on Monday it annulled part of its constitution that gave the region a large degree of independence from the rest of the country.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government on Monday revoked Articles 35A and 370, which gave the state of Jammu and Kashmir a special status that allowed it to make its own laws.

India wants to reorganize it into two territories - Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh - that would be governed by the federal authorities in New Delhi as opposed to individual state governors.

Pakistan's foreign ministry says it will "exercise all possible options to counter the illegal steps."

Amit Dave/Reuters

History of the powder-keg region

Jammu and Kashmir's quasi-independence dates back to 1927, when the region's administration allowed its subjects to have a separate set of rules for inheriting property.

After India and Pakistan separated in 1947, the maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir chose to become part of India, and Article 370 of the Indian Constitution preserved its special status. This angered Pakistan, which supported many insurgencies in the region.

Pakistan continues to claim Jammu and Kashmir as its own territory.

The constitutional provision also blocked Indians from outside the region from living there, owning property, or getting government jobs. It also prohibits women from inheriting property if they marry someone from outside the state.

REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay

Modi's right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party has argued that constitutional provisions regarding Jammu and Kashmir's special status are temporary and has long vowed to revoke them.

During general elections this May, the party said the special status was "discriminatory against non-permanent residents and women of Kashmir."

It added: "We believe that Article 35A is an obstacle in the development of the state."

The party won those elections by a landslide, increasing its seats in Parliament.

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Control of Jammu and Kashmir is split among India, Pakistan, and China. The area remains heavily contested between India and Pakistan.

Many of the region's residents, who are mostly Muslim, hope for independence or to be ruled by Pakistan, the BBC reported. It is one of the most heavily militarized areas in the world.

The longstanding tensions over Kashmir reignited in February after a suicide attack killed 44 Indian paramilitary officers in the Indian-controlled side of the region.

Read more: Here's what life is like on the border between India and Pakistan, one of the world's most disputed regions

Mukesh Gupta / REUTERS

Troops move in as tourists stream out

Since Friday, India has moved thousands of troops into Kashmir and placed heavy restrictions on the daily life of its 7 million residents, citing an impending terror threat.

Indian army officials said militants based in Pakistan were planning an attack on Hindus who were in the region for an annual pilgrimage, The Associated Press and The New York Times reported.

Thousands of tourists and Indian students have been fleeing the region per government orders, the AP reported.

But many Kashmiris doubted the claims of an impending terrorist attack and wondered whether there were other reasons for the sudden increase in troops in the region, The Times said.

The Indian army also on Sunday fired along the line of control that divides Kashmir into Indian and Pakistani territory, wounding one woman, the AP reported, citing Pakistani police.

Mukesh Gupta/Reuters

Indian authorities in the region also shut off the internet and cut phone service in many households over the weekend.

Blocking these communications is a common strategy to prevent people from organizing demonstrations and to stop the spread of news that may be unfavorable to the government, according to the AP.

Some people, however, were able to bypass the internet ban. The Indian state-owned BSNL telcom provider sold satellite phones to journalists on the ground for 100,000 rupees (about $1,420) apiece so they could continue reporting.

Indian officials also placed top regional leaders, including the former chief ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, under house arrest amid the mounting tensions.

Tweet Embed:
//twitter.com/mims/statuses/1158075327333031941?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw
I believe I'm being placed under house arrest from midnight tonight & the process has already started for other mainstream leaders. No way of knowing if this is true but if it is then I'll see all of you on the other side of whatever is in store. Allah save us ????????

"Today marks the darkest day in Indian democracy," Mufti tweeted shortly after India scrapped the constitutional provisions for Jammu and Kashmir's independence.

She later said that "the manner in which" Indian officials "want to bulldoze our special identity is illegal & makes India an occupational force."

Jonathan Ernst / REUTERS

Will Trump play a part?

In a meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan last month, US President Donald Trump offered to mediate the Kashmir dispute between Pakistan and India.

Khan appeared to take up Trump's offer on Sunday after Indian troops moved into the region, warning in a tweet that "this has the potential to blow up into a regional crisis."

Read more: Trump's casual offer to mediate the Kashmir dispute reveals a disastrous misunderstanding of the powder-keg region

In a Monday statement, Pakistan's foreign ministry said it "strongly condemns and rejects" India's actions on Monday and that the annulment of Kashmir's special status violated UN Security Council resolutions.

"No unilateral step by the Government of India can change this disputed status, as enshrined in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions. Nor will this ever be acceptable to the people of Jammu & Kashmir and Pakistan," the ministry said.

"As the party to this international dispute, Pakistan will exercise all possible options to counter the illegal steps."

NOW WATCH: Customs and border officials at JFK airport check 1,000 bags an hour for narcotics and illicit food. Here's where the contraband goes.

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