Wednesday, 13 November, 2019

India revokes Kashmir’s special status: All the latest updates


India says decision to strip Muslim-majority region of autonomy is an ‘internal’ matter after Islamabad downgrades ties. 16 minutes ago

The Indian government has revoked the special status of Indian-administered Kashmir in its constitution, the most far-reaching political move on the disputed region in nearly seven decades.

A presidential decree issued on Monday revoked Article 370 of India’s constitution that guaranteed special rights to the Muslim-majority state, including the right to its own constitution and autonomy to make laws on all matters, except defence, communications and foreign affairs.

In the lead-up to the move, India sent thousands of additional troops to the disputed region, imposing a crippling curfew, shutting down telecommunications and internet, and arresting political leaders.

The move has worsened the already-heightened tensions with neighbouring Pakistan, which said it will downgrade its diplomatic relations with India.

Both India and Pakistan claim Kashmir in full but rule it in part. The nuclear-armed neighbours have fought two of their three wars over the disputed territory. 

The United Nations has urged the two countries to exercise restraint.

Here are all the latest updates:

Thursday, August 8

Pakistan suspends train service to India

Pakistan has said it would suspend a rail service linking it to India, as relations with its arch rival continue to sour over the contested Kashmir region.

“We have decided to shut down Samjhauta Express,” railways minister Sheikh Rasheed said, referring to the train running to India’s capital New Delhi from the Pakistani city of Lahore.

“As long as I am [the] railways minister, Samjhauta Express can’t operate.”

Kashmir an ‘internal affair’, India tells Pakistan

India has hit back at Pakistan’s downgrading of diplomatic ties over its clampdown on Kashmir, saying its decision to strip the restive region of its autonomy was an “internal affair”.

“The recent developments pertaining to Article 370 are entirely the internal affair of India,” the Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement.

“Seeking to interfere in that jurisdiction by invoking an alarmist vision of the region will never succeed.”

No phone calls, no groceries: Kashmir on edge under lockdown

The unprecedented security lockdown amid a near-total communications blackout has entered a fourth day in Indian-administered Kashmir, with tens of thousands of forces in riot gear patrolling the region.

Streets lined with shuttered shops were deserted while steel barricades and razor wire cut off neighbourhoods, AP news agency said. Shopping malls, grocery stores and even clinics were closed.

Due to the communication blackout – with landlines, cellphones and internet all down – people can’t call one another or speak to friends and relatives outside the region.

Activist files petition challenging Kashmir clampdown

An opposition activist has filed a petition in India’s Supreme Court challenging the communications blackout and security clampdown in Indian-administered Kashmir, where people remained holed up in their homes for a fourth day.

The plea also sought “immediate release” of political leaders under custody, including two former Jammu and Kashmir chief ministers.

State-run All India Radio said security agencies have arrested more than 500 people in the disputed region apparently to prevent any outbreak of violence.

India’s splitting of Kashmir opposed in border city of Kargil

India’s move to carve out Ladakh from the state of Jammu and Kashmir to make it a “union territory” has been met with protests in Kargil, a Muslim-majority border city in Ladakh that identifies culturally with Kashmir.

Kargil’s religious and political organisations released a statement, condemning the Indian government for acting “without the consent from the people”. The groups called for a shutdown on Tuesday.

Kargil’s Imam Khomeini Memorial Trust, an influential religious group in the region, supported the protest.

Wednesday, August 7

US supports direct dialogue between Pakistan, India on Kashmir

The United States on Wednesday said it supports direct dialogue between India and Pakistan on the disputed Kashmir region and called for calm and restraint as the dispute escalated.

“We continue to support direct dialogue between India and Pakistan on Kashmir and other issues of concern,” a US State Department spokeswoman said in a statement.

Kashmiris anxious over food, cash shortages

Residents of Indian-administered Kashmir’s main city, Srinagar, have expressed concern over food and currency shortages because of the continuing security lockdown. 

Muneer Ahmad, who owns a shop at the Jahangir Chowk, said he was running out of essential goods.

“Whatever old stock we had we sold that and now we are running out of stock like milk, flour, and the way security has been placed on roads,” he said. “This seems to be a long curfew where people will starve.” 

Most ATMs in the city were also not working, residents said. 

India ‘did not consult US’ over Kashmir move

The US has denied media reports that New Delhi had consulted Washington before revoking Kashmir’s special status. 

Alice Wells, acting assistant secretary at the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, said in a Twitter post: “Contrary to press reporting, the Indian government did not consult or inform the US government before moving to revoke Jammu and Kashmir’s special constitutional status.”

UK expresses concern to India over Kashmir

Britain’s Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said he had expressed concern to his Indian counterpart about the situation in the disputed Kashmir region.

“I have spoken to the Indian foreign minister,” Raab said. “We’ve expressed some of our concerns around the situation and called for calm, but also had a clear readout of the situation from the perspective of the Indian government.”

Pakistan to expel Indian ambassador 

Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Pakistan’s foreign minister, said Islamabad would expel India’s ambassador Ajay Bisaria. 

Moin-ul-Haq, Pakistan’s newly-appointed ambassador to India, had yet to take up his post but will now not move to New Delhi, Qureshi added in televised comments. 

Pakistan to downgrade ties with India over Kashmir move

Pakistan said it will “downgrade” diplomatic relations and suspend bilateral trade with India after New Delhi stripped its portion of the contested Kashmir region of special status.

The move follows a meeting of Pakistan’s National Security Committee, led by Prime Minister Imran Khan, according to an official statement posted on Twitter. 

Protesting India’s “unilateral” and “illegal” actions in Kashmir, Islamabad said it would also raise the issue with the United Nations Security Council.

Khan also directed Pakistan’s armed forces to “continue vigilance”.

Protester dies, scores arrested in Kashmir lockdown

A protester died after being chased by police and more than 100 people were arrested during a curfew in Kashmir’s main city after the restive region’s autonomy was scrapped by India, officials told AFP news agency.

Despite a paralysing curfew imposed to head off unrest, sporadic protests have been reported by residents in the main city, Srinagar. A police official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP that in one incident a youth being chased by police “jumped into the Jhelum River and died”.

A source told AFP that at least six people had been admitted to hospital in Srinagar with gunshot wounds and other injuries from protests. 

Workers leave Kashmir valley after lockdown

Thousands of workers from north Indian states have left Indian-administered Kashmir over the last three days following an unprecedented lockdown of the Himalayan valley.

People from various parts of India wait at a bus terminal during restrictions as they wait to leave Srinagar [Zubair Sofi/Al Jazeera]

People from various parts of India wait at a bus terminal during restrictions as they wait to leave Srinagar [Al Jazeera] 

People from various parts of India wait at a bus terminal during restrictions as they wait to leave Srinagar [Zubair Sofi/Al Jazeera]

Women and children wait at a bus terminal in Srinagar [Al Jazeera] 

Kashmir journalists struggle to tell their stories

Restrictions on movement and a communications blackout for a third day in Indian-administered Kashmir have frustrated the region’s journalists.

Most English and Urdu language newspapers based in the main city of Srinagar have not published their editions since Monday.

Kashmir pics

Local media have found it hard to publish because of a blockade [Baba Tamim/Al Jazeera]

“I tried to take some photos and videos, but the deployed forces stopped me. They asked me to shut my camera,” a news reporter told Al Jazeera.

Activists arrested, journalists fear for safety

Many activists were arrested in Indian-administered Kashmir, sources told Al Jazeera from Srinagar.

Journalists already struggling to get information about the disputed region out because of a communications blackout, said they fear for their safety.

One reporter told Al Jazeera on the condition of anonymity that his name was on a list of people who were to be arrested.

Sporadic protests in Srinagar amid lockdown

Knots of young protesters threw stones at soldiers, police and a witness said, amid anger over the telecommunications clampdown that began on Sunday.

Streets in the region’s main city of Srinagar were deserted for a third day, with almost all shops shut, barring some chemists.

Armed federal police manned mobile checkpoints across the city, limiting people’s movement.

“These [protests] are mostly localised because of the heavy troop deployment,” a police officer who sought anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media, told Reuters news agency, adding that police used tear gas and pepper spray to scatter the protesters.

Kashmiris mourn loss of autonomy

Kashmir Curfew [Baba Tamim/Al Jazeera]

Indian troops patrol the deserted streets of Srinagar during a significant security lockdown [Baba Tamim/Al Jazeera] 

Residents of Srinagar in Indian-administered Kashmir lamented India’s decision to scrap the region’s special status but promised to resist the move.

Al Jazeera spoke with almost a dozen locals who said they feared demographic changes would now be inevitable in the Muslim-majority region.

Ghulam Mohammad Mir, a 42-year-old ambulance driver said: “Our honour has been sacrificed. When I heard about the abrogation of the terms of accession I felt like I have lost a part of my body. Kashmir is not going to remain the same area.”

What are Articles 370 and 35A?

Article 370 was the basis of Jammu and Kashmir’s accession to the Indian union at a time when erstwhile princely states had the choice to join either India or Pakistan after their independence from British rule in 1947.

Article 35A was introduced through a presidential order in 1954 to continue the old provisions of the territory regulations under Article 370 of the Indian constitution.

Read our explainer.

UN ‘deeply concerned’ over Kashmir curfew

The UN has expressed concern over the significant security lockdown, telecommunication restrictions and the arbitrary detention of political leaders in Indian-administered Kashmir.

“What we are witnessing now in Indian-administered Kashmir takes what was already a bit of a pattern to a new level,” said UN human rights spokesman Rupert Colville at a press briefing in Geneva.

“We are deeply concerned that the latest restrictions will exacerbate the human rights situation in the region,” he added. 

Redrawn map will transform Kashmir: Experts

The Indian government’s decision to split the state of Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories will lead to a major transformation of the socioeconomic landscape in the Muslim-majority Himalayan region, according to critics and experts.

“The decision (to split the region) will reduce Kashmir to a colony,” A G Noorani, a constitutional expert, told the Associated Press news agency.

“It will divide Kashmir from the rest of the country and Kashmiris will oppose the Hindu feeling in the region,” he said.

Dibyesh Anand, a social scientist at the University of Westminster, said: “The fear of settler colonialism is not a spectre but a reality, given the approach of both the government and a large number of Indians.”

Tuesday, August 6:

EU urges India, Pakistan to avoid escalation

The European Union said that it was closely monitoring the situation and called for the avoidance of escalation of tensions in the region.

“Our main message here is that it is very important to avoid any escalation of tension in Kashmir and in the region,” Carlos Martin Ruiz de Gordejuela, an EU spokesman for foreign affairs, told a news conference.

He noted that the issue has legal and political dimensions.

Turkey seeks to reduce tension

Turkey is closely following the “worrying” developments, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said.

Erdogan’s remarks came at Turkey’s 11th Ambassadors’ Conference in Ankara, where Turkish diplomats and foreign mission officials gather annually to discuss foreign policy.

Erdogan said he had a “fruitful” phone conversation with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and that Ankara would get in touch with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi in hopes to reduce tension mounting in the region.

Organisation of Islamic Cooperation expresses concern

The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Contact Group on Jammu and Kashmir has expressed “deep concern” over the recent developments.

In a statement at an emergency meeting held in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, the secretary-general, Yousef bin Ahmed al-Othaimeen, reaffirmed the OIC’s “support to the people of Jammu and Kashmir in their just struggle to achieve their legitimate rights, in particular the right to self-determination”.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said that Indian steps which “interfere with the demography of Indian-administered Kashmir and the disputed status are a grave, destabilising threat to the already volatile situation in South Asia and would have serious implications”.

The Contact Group condemned India’s “illegal and unilateral” steps and urged New Delhi to allow access to its Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission (IPHRC) and other international rights bodies to Indian-administered Kashmir in order to “independently verify the gross and blatant human rights violations”.

Modi says a ‘new dawn’ awaits Kashmir

Indian Prime Minister Modi described the passage of the legislation as a “momentous occasion” in a parliamentary democracy.

In a series of tweets, Modi said: “I salute my sisters and brothers of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh for their courage and resilience. For years, vested interest groups who believed in emotional blackmail never cared for people’s empowerment. J&K is now free from their shackles. A new dawn, better tomorrow awaits!”

Modi also said his government had fulfilled a long-standing demand of the people of Ladakh, Kashmir’s mostly Buddhist region, to be declared a territory of India’s union.

“Special congratulations to the people of Ladakh!,” Modi tweeted.

“This decision will give impetus to the overall prosperity of the region and ensure better developmental facilities.”

India tells China Kashmir is ‘internal matter’

India warned China that Ladakh’s new designation as a “union territory” is an “internal matter” after Beijing slammed India’s “unilateral” decision.

“India does not comment on the internal affairs of other countries and similarly expects other countries to do likewise,” Indian foreign ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar said.

China: India’s move undermines our sovereignty

China expressed serious concern and called for maintaining the status quo in the disputed region.

“[India and Pakistan] should refrain from taking actions that will unilaterally change the status quo and escalate tensions,” said Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying.

“We call on both India and Pakistan to peacefully resolve the relevant disputes through dialogue and consultation and safeguard peace and stability in the region,” Hua said.

The Kashmir issue “is an issue left from the past between India and Pakistan,” she said. “The relevant sides need to exercise restraint and act prudently.”

Beijing also criticised India’s “unilateral” decision to turn Kashmir’s mostly Buddhist region of Ladakh into an administrative territory directly ruled by New Delhi.

“China is always opposed to India’s inclusion of the Chinese territory in the western sector of the China-India boundary into its administrative jurisdiction,” Hua said.

“Recently India has continued to undermine China’s territorial sovereignty by unilaterally changing its domestic law. Such practice is unacceptable and will not come into force.”

India says China is illegally occupying 38,000sq km of its northwestern territory, while Beijing claims a 90,000sq km chunk of Arunachal Pradesh state in northeast India.

India’s parliament approves resolution revoking Kashmir of its status

India’s parliament approved a resolution revoking Kashmir’s special status and cleared a bill to split the disputed state.

The resolution, backing Monday’s decree to abolish Article 370 of the Indian constitution, was adopted by the lower house of parliament.

The “Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill” that splits the state into two territories directly governed by New Delhi was passed by 370 parliamentarians voting for the legislation, and 70 against.

The two crucial motions have now been ratified by both the houses of parliament – with the upper house approving the measures on Monday.

“Together we are, together we shall rise and together we will fulfill the dreams of 130 crore [1.3 billion] Indians,” Modi tweeted after parliament approved the move.

Khan calls for international intervention

Pakistani Prime Minister Khan said his government would challenge the Indian move to change the constitutional status of Indian-administered Kashmir at the UN Security Council, urging the international community to intervene in the crisis or risk regional destabilisation.

“We will raise this at every level, at the United Nations Security Council,” said Khan, addressing a joint session of Pakistan’s parliament in the capital, Islamabad.

“We are thinking of how we can go to the [International Court of Justice] through the UN Security Council … we will raise this issue at every forum.”

Pakistan army will ‘go to any extent’ to support Kashmir

Pakistan’s army chief said the country’s military will “go to any extent” to support people in the contested region after India’s move,

“Pakistan army firmly stands by the Kashmiris in their just struggle to the very end,” General Qamar Javed Bajwa said following a meeting with top commanders in Rawalpindi.

“We are prepared and shall go to any extent to fulfil our obligations in this regard,” he added, without elaborating further.

India’s lower house debates bill to split Kashmir 

The lower house of India’s parliament was set to ratify the bill downgrading the governance of the Indian-administered portion of Kashmir. 

Members of the Lok Sabha were debating the “Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill” a day after the legislation was introduced alongside the presidential decree revoking Article 370.

The bill downgrades the region from a state into two federally administered union territories: Jammu and Kashmir as well as Ladakh. Jammu and Kashmir would still have its own legislature, while Ladakh would not.

Kashmir on edge as India tightens grip on disputed region

A communications blackout and a security lockdown in Indian-administered Kashmir prompted anger and fear among residents. 

Sheikh Mushtaq, 55, said he has lost contact with his daughter who was forced to leave her university in southern Jammu on Monday because of the lockdown. “We are helpless,” he said. 

The security measures have also hit businesses hard before the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha. 

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