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 amid fears the action could lead to uprisings there.
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, which would strip them 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 and decision-making process for all matters except defence, communications and foreign affairs.
It would also allow Indians from outside the region to permanently settle, buy land, hold local government jobs and secure educational scholarships.
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.