India has used a presidential order to start a process to end the special constitutional status accorded to the state of Jammu and Kashmir in a controversial move that is likely to spark further conflict in the disputed region.
The move by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is expected to spark further unrest, and came amid a huge troop deployment to the disputed region.
What is the latest news on Kashmir?
Mr Modi's Hindu nationalist-led government has proposed to remove Article 370 of India's constitution on 5 August by presidential order. Described as a temporary provision in nature initially, Article 370 granted special autonomous status to Jammu and Kashmir state.
Another clause, Article 35A, which reserved property and employment rights with residents of J and K, has now been abrogated by the presidential order.
Critics of the move 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. To tackle any law-and-order situation, security in the region has been stepped up, with prohibitory orders in place against public assembly.
Amit Shah, India’s Home Minister, told members of the upper house that the government had 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.
Kashmir is divided between rivals India and Pakistan but claimed by both.
What does Kashmir's special status mean?
Article 35A of India’s constitution permits the local legislature in Indian-controlled Kashmir to define permanent residents of the region.
The article came into force in 1954 by a presidential order under Article 370.
Article 35A forbids Indians from outside the state from permanently settling, buying land, holding local government jobs or winning education scholarships in the region.
The article, referred to as the Permanent Residents Law, also bars female residents of Jammu and Kashmir from property rights in the event that they marry a person from outside the state. The provision also extends to such women’s children.
Since Jammu and Kashmir still has a Muslim majority, the effect of Article 35A has been to keep it so by preventing Hindus from settling permanently in the state.
What is the history of Article 370?
Two months after India won independence from British rule in August 1947, Maharaja Hari Singh, the then ruler of Jammu and Kashmir, signed an Instrument of Accession for the state to join the rest of the Indian union than Pakistan, formalised in Article 370 of the constitution with a special status.
That status allowed the state to decide on all matters except defence, communication, finance and foreign affairs.
How can Article 370 be revoked?
Article 370(3) of the Indian constitution permits revocation of the law by presidential order. However, such an order must be introduced before the state’s Constituent Assembly.
Since that body was dissolved in 1957, experts have different views on the abrogation of the law.
The current legislature is under President’s Rule since none of the political parties managed to get a majority vote.
The validity of Article 35A has been brought before India's Supreme Court.
What next for Kashmir?
Now that Kashmir’s special status has been repealed, people from the rest of India will have the right to acquire property in the region and settle there permanently.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has said they will take the “case of Kashmir to the United Nations”. The UN adopted resolutions after India and Pakistan fought a war in 1948 that allowed for Kashmiri self-determination after demilitarisation, which never happened.
Two agreements between India and Pakistan, at Shimla in 1972 and Lahore in 1999, have concurred that the issue is a bilateral one.
US President Donald Trump has offered to mediate between India and Pakistan on the issue of Kashmir. While Pakistan welcomed the offer, India rejected it.