In a huge move, Home Minister Amit Shah Monday announced scrapping of Article 370 of the Constitution that provides special status to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Shah said the state will now be divided into two Union Territories – Ladakh, and Jammu and Kashmir. While the Ladakh UT will be without a legislature, the UT of J&K will be with legislature. Shah read out the President’s Order in this regard.
Kashmir has been in the grip of panic and confusion over the past week amid heavy deployment of security forces and cancellation of the Amarnath Yatra. Late on Sunday night, the J&K administration imposed restrictions under Section 144of the CrPC in Srinagar district with effect from August 5 midnight. The restrictions are to remain in force until further orders
All major leaders of the Valley, including PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti, National Conference’s Omar Abdullah and Farooq Abdullah and Jammu and Kashmir People’s Conference’s Sajad Lone, have been put under house arrest.
Mobile, broadband Internet and cable TV services have been entirely shut down.
Earlier on Friday, the government called off the annual Amarnath Yatra ahead of time and ordered yatris and tourists to leave the Valley immediately, amid the Army receiving inputs of Pakistan terrorists planning an attack on the yatra. By Sunday, Director, Tourism, Nisar Wani, said 98% of the tourists present in Kashmir had left.
Students of NIT Srinagar were also asked to evacuate their hostels. All Universities, schools and colleges in the state have been closed until further notice. On Sunday, a large number of migrant labourers left Kashmir.
Opposition leaders have criticised the BJP government for its actions in Kashmir. On Monday, Congress leader Shashi Tharoor tweeted: “What is going on in J&K? Why would leaders be arrested overnight while having done no wrong? If Kashmiris are our citizens & their leaders our partners, surely the mainstream ones must be kept on board while we act against terrorists & separatists? If we alienate them, who’s left?”
Earlier, a series of government orders, and no clear communication, had caused panic in the Valley. On July 28, a Divisional Security Commissioner of Railways in the Valley asked railway officials to store ration for four months, not to keep their family members in Kashmir and to restrict staff leave due to “emergency situations”. On the same day, another order was issued by police asking its officers in Srinagar to “provide details of mosques and their management… for onward submission to higher authorities”.
On July 30, Governor Satya Pal Maliksaid “none of the orders being shown are valid, there is a lot of rumour mongering here.” The railways order was later revoked, with the Railways ministry saying “the officer was not authorised to issue such a letter.”
The government had also been steadily increasing security deployment in the state. On July 25, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) ordered deployment of 100 companies of Central Armed Paramilitary Forces (CAPF) to “strengthen the CI (counter-insurgency) grid as well as for maintaining law and order situation in J&K”. The additional troop deployment, however, came on top of 400 companies of paramilitary forces rushed by the Centre to J&K after the Pulwama car bombing on February 14 this year.