After a week of rumors and misinformation, on Monday, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government announced changes to the constitutional and legal status of the state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). There are two principal components: (1) scrapping Article 370 and the associated Article 35-A of the Indian constitution, which govern Kashmir’s relationship with the Indian Union, and (2) geographically splitting J&K and administrating it as a “Union Territory.”
These changes could have important political consequences, including increased instability and unrest in the region.
1. Jammu and Kashmir is losing its autonomy.
The Indian government’s constitutional and legal relationship with J&K is complicated by history. The state, technically independent when British colonization ended, became part of India only in wartime, when Pakistan sought to seize control of the territory in 1947.
The terms of J&K’s union with India entail a special degree of autonomy. Under Article 370 of the Indian constitution, India’s federal government controls foreign affairs, defense, finance and communications in J&K — but leaves other governance matters to provincial representatives. Article 35-A prevented non-locals from buying property or permanently settling in J&K.
The proposed change — which may still face a legal challenge in the Supreme Court — strips J&K of all this autonomy.
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