On Monday, the Kashmir valley went silent. In Jammu and Kashmir, the Indian administered half of the world’s most fiercely militarised zone, the internet and phone lines went down, a curfew was imposed and 40,000 more troops moved in. Local political leaders were arrested, and the Amarnath Yatra, a popular Hindu pilgrimage in the region, was abruptly cancelled. Then, with Kashmiris left in the dark, the Indian government announced it was amending Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, a move which revoked the region’s special status.
Throughout decades of border tensions, insurgent violence, and over-militarisation, the special status has given Jammu and Kashmir some constitutionally-entrenched political autonomy. With that autonomy now gone, the valley’s future remains uncertain.
What is Article 370?
When India and Pakistan gained independence in 1947 following the bloodshed of partition, princely states like Kashmir were given freedom to choose which country to join. One of the conditions of Kashmir joining India was preservation of autonomy in the region, which was enshrined in Article 370 of the Indian Constitution. Jammu and Kashmir retained its own Constitution, flag, and criminal code. Meanwhile, Article 35A gave the state power to define permanent residents, providing basis for laws restricting non-residents from buying property in Jammu and Kashmir.