Indian government slammed as Narendra Modi justifies Kashmir status downgrade

  • Video report by ITV News correspondent John Ray

People in Kashmir are being holed up in their homes as the state enters its fourth day under a tight security lock down.

Locals have been surrounded by armed forces and under a communications blackout, after the Indian government revoked Kashmir's special status, stripping residents of long-held hereditary rights to jobs, scholarships and land ownership.

Tensions between India and Pakistan, which also claims the divided Himalayan region have soared.

Pakistan’s High Commissioner has condemned the actions of the Indian government, and sent a grave warning.

“This is a time when this matter can be resolved amicably,” Mohammad Nafees Zakari told ITV News.

“This is a time when India needs admonishment, condemnation and counselling, with what they’re doing at the moment.

“They have chosen a very dangerous path.”

Mohammad Nafees Zakari, Pakistan’s High Commissioner. Credit: ITV News

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made his first national address on the matter on Thursday, claiming that the downgrading of Indian-administered Kashmir from a state to a federally controlled territory will help end decades of terrorism and separatism "incited" by Pakistan.

In a nationally broadcast speech, he described the changes as "historic" and assured residents the situation will soon become normal.

He also said the decision to revoke Muslim-majority Kashmir’s status fulfilled the dreams of millions of patriots.

Security forces have arrested 500 people in the Kashmir region,while thousands of migrant workers have been sent home.

Pakistan has severed trade ties with India, and the country's railways minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmad suspended the Express, or Friendship Express, train service to India.

Kashmir is surrounded by heavily armed forces. Credit: AP

Defence and security think tank RUSI believes the situation has reached the point of no return.

Aaditya Dave told ITV News: “I think the move taken by the Indian government is done and dusted.

“In terms of the international community, yes India is indeed an economic power and geopolitical power and it seems difficult for an international pressure to change what India has done.”

Defence and security think tank RUSI believes the situation has reached the point of no return. Credit: ITV News

Rebels in Muslim-majority Kashmir have been fighting Indian rule in the portion it administers for decades.

Pakistan's foreign minister said Islamabad is not considering any military actions and instead is looking at political and legal options to challenge India's changes.

Activist Ali Mohammed told New Delhi Television that he has been organising ambulances to carry sick poor people to hospitals in Srinagar, the main city in India's portion ofKashmir, as local residents cannot even use phones to ask for medical help.

In New Delhi, opposition Congress party activist Tehseen Poonawalla said he expected the Supreme Court to hear his petition on Thursday seeking the immediate lifting of a curfew and other restrictions, including blocking of phone lines, internet and news channels in Kashmir.

He also sought the immediate release of Kashmiri leaders who have been detained, including Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti.

Islamabad on Wednesday said it would downgrade its diplomatic ties with New Delhi, expel the Indian ambassador and suspend trade.

Prime minister Imran Khan told Pakistan's National Security Committee that his government will use all diplomatic channels "to expose the brutal Indian racist regime" and human rights violations in Kashmir, the government's statement said.

India hit back, saying in a statement that "the intention behind these measures is obviously to present an alarming picture to the world of our bilateral ties".

Pakistan's Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Faisal said authorities were considering approaching the International Court of Justice for a case against India for downgrading Kashmir's special status.

He condemned the communications blackout and security clampdown, saying: "Kashmir has been converted into the world's biggest jail."

"They are taking such actions in a panic," he said, adding India has "touched something they don't know how to get out of it".

India and Pakistan have fought two of their three wars over control of Kashmir.

The first ended in 1948 with a UN-brokered ceasefire that left Kashmir divided and promised its people a UN-sponsored referendum on the region's future.