Fears of unrest as India revokes Kashmir's special status

  • ITV News Correspondent John Ray assesses the fallout.

India's Hindu nationalist-led government has moved to revoke the special status of Muslim-majority Kashmir, cutting off communications and deploying thousands of troops in the restive Himalayan region.

Home Minister Amit Shah announced the revocation amid an uproar by opposition politicians in parliament over the move.

It also comes as Kashmir is under a security lockdown that has kept thousands of people in their homes and in the dark about the change.

What's the worst that could happen in the lockdown?

Opposition politicians hold placards against the Indian government’s proposal at the parliament premises in New Delhi Credit: Manish Swarup/AP

The lockdown would strip Kashmir residents of long-held hereditary rights to jobs, scholarships and land ownership in the disputed region along the mountainous India-Pakistan border.

The order, which still needs the approval of the ruling party-controlled parliament, revokes article 370 of India’s constitution, eliminating the Indian-administered state’s right to its own constitution.

However, it would also allow Indians from outside the region to permanently settle, buy land, hold local government jobs and secure educational scholarships.

Indian activists and others during a protest in Bangalore against the Indian government’s plans Credit: Aijaz Rahi/AP

Why are people against the move?

Government critics see the move as an attempt to dilute the demographics of Kashmir, which is predominantly Muslim, with Hindu settlers.

Proponents said scrapping article 370 addresses gender discrimination, since the law stipulates that Kashmiri women who marry people outside the region lose inherited property rights, and will boost the economy.

Rebels in Indian-controlled Kashmir have been fighting Indian control for decades.

The US embassy in New Delhi issued a security alert, urging Americans to leave the region immediately, citing the “potential for terrorist incidents, as well as violent public unrest”.

Pakistani Kashmiris protest near the Indian embassy in Islamabad Credit: BK Bangash/AP

Why is there conflict about Kashmir?

Two of the three wars between the nuclear-armed neighbours since their independence from British rule were over Kashmir.

Most Kashmiris support the rebels’ demand that the territory be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country, while also participating in civilian street demonstrations against Indian control.

About 70,000 people have been killed in the uprisings and the ensuing Indian crackdowns.

Barricades are set up by Indian police to prevent the movement of vehicles during curfew-like restrictions in Jammu Credit: Channi Anand/AP

Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said Pakistan will step up diplomatic efforts to prevent the order from taking effect.

"India is playing a very dangerous game by changing the status of Kashmir through illegal acts," he told a Pakistani TV station from Saudi Arabia, where he is on a pilgrimage to Mecca.