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J&K loses its special status, divided into two UTs

Home Minister Amit Shah announces the Centre’s decision in the Rajya SabhaRS adopts the J&K Reorganisation Bill, with 125 votes in favour and 61 againstThe two new Union Territories will be Jammu & Kashmir and LadakhLadakh will not have a legislature while Jammu & Kashmir will have one

Ending Jammu and Kashmir’s special status in the Indian Union, the BJP government extended all provisions of the Constitution to the State in one go, downsized the State into two Union Territories and allowed all citizens to buy property and vote in the State.

Leading the charge, Home Minister Amit Shah piloted two special resolutions and a Bill creating the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh through the Rajya Sabha on Monday. While the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir will have a legislature, the one in Ladakh will not.

The first resolution informed the House that the President had used his powers under Article 370 to fundamentally alter the provision, extending all Central laws, instruments and treaties to Kashmir. However, the drastically altered Article 370 will remain on the statute book.

The government’s surgical strike on the State’s autonomy came as telephone and Internet services in the Valley were suspended, former Chief Ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti remained under arrest and thousands of additional Central security personnel were deployed.

Mr. Shah said that if the Union Territory model worked well, the government would consider giving Jammu and Kashmir the status of a State again and “no constitutional amendment would be required”. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was present during the proceedings.

Mr. Shah said the Resolution for Repeal of Article 370 of the Constitution of India “would pass every legal scrutiny” and he was aware that an “NGO brigade”, supported by some parties, would challenge it.

Slamming the Congress, Mr. Shah said, “It was your policy that has killed so many people, more than 41,000, since 1988. Why aren’t youth in Rajasthan, Gujarat or Odisha misguided? Because there is no Article 370 in these States.”

Dismissing concerns that there would be “bloodshed” in the Valley, Mr. Shah said this was a “new experiment” and everyone should support it. “Terrorism cannot end in the State till Article 370 or 35A continue. They are an obstacle to development. We want to embrace the Kashmiri youth. The move will bring development, tourism and industries to the State. These opportunities till now were controlled by only three families,” he said.

Governor Satya Pal Malik on Monday night reviewed the security situation with top officials in Jammu and emphasised the need for constant vigil to deal with any eventuality. The Army’s Northern Command chief Lt. Gen. Ranbir Singh met the Governor and briefed him about the security situation.

Reacting to the developments, U.S. State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said, “We call on all parties to maintain peace and stability along the LoC.”

(With PTI inputs)

A fatal legal error, says P. Chidambaram

Senior Congress leader P. Chidambaram on Monday said the government cannot modify Article 370 by using another provision of Article 370. By doing so it made a “fatal legal error” and it would discover this in due course.

The Rajya Sabha passed a resolution moved by Home Minister Amit Shah that would repeal the provisions under Article 370 of the Constitution, which granted a special status to Jammu and Kashmir.

“How can Article 370 be modified using Article 370?... I know it was your manifesto promise...but in repealing Article 370, you are unleashing forces which you cannot control,” he said.

While introducing the resolution earlier in the day, Mr. Shah had said, “Under Article 370(3), there is a provision that the President, on recommendation of Parliament, has the power to amend or cease the implementation of Article 370, through a public notification.” He later clarified to Mr. Chidambaram that the said provision has to be read with Article 371 D (Special provisions with respect to the State of Andhra Pradesh.)

Mr. Chidambaram appealed to the government not to “dismember the State” and warned it had committed a “cardinal blunder.”

“Momentarily you may think you have scored a victory...drum beats on streets may force you to think that you have corrected a so-called injustice but history will prove you.... Future generations will realise what a grave mistake this House is making today. This will be a catastrophic blunder,” he said.

He said the State was being reduced to the state of municipal administrations and instead of protecting the rights of the States, the Rajya Sabha was passing Bills which were on the concurrent list.

Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said the State’s head, considered India’s crown, has been “chopped off” and it was a “matter of shame” that the Centre had reduced the State to a non-entity with Lt. Governor’s rule.

“The way an atom bomb explodes, such an explosion took place in the House today when the Home Minister arrived,” Mr. Azad said in the Upper House. He dared the government to bring a Bill to convert Gujarat into a Union Territory, saying it should not take things lightly, and accused the Centre of muzzling the State’s history while being “drunk” with power.

Tiruchi Siva (DMK) termed the move unconstitutional as the Constitution says that only the Assembly should decide on such crucial issues.

Communication shutdown triggers panic outside J&K

Kashmiris in Delhi pray for safety of kin

Sitting inside her second-floor house in Okhla’s Johri Farm, a Kashmiri-dominated locality in Delhi, 30-year-old Aqiba held her cell phone steady as she tried her mother’s fixed-line number twice in three minutes in the hope that it will connect.

Ms. Aqiba’s parents, brother and other relatives are in Srinagar and the last time she spoke to them was late evening on Sunday. Her only regret on Monday was missing her mother’s call around 6 a.m. “My daughter is two years old and I was busy with her. I missed my mother’s call and I have been trying the number since morning but it’s not connecting. I just want to know they are okay and safe. The last time we spoke, she told me they are locked up in the house,” said Ms. Aqiba as she wiped tears off her face.

She said her paternal uncle is a cancer patient and his condition was grave on Sunday. “I have no news about him. I don’t know how they would take him to hospital if required,” she said. “Internet connection and mobile services had been shut down earlier too, but landline phones used to work. Since Monday morning, even those are not connecting. This has happened for the first time in years,” said Ms. Aqiba.

It’s not just her who is disturbed by the government’s decision to “reorganise” Jammu and Kashmir and scrap its special status under Article 370.

‘No say’

A 46-year-old woman who did not wish to be identified started crying when asked about her opinion on the decision. She was watching the news on television to keep herself updated on the developments in Kashmir where her entire family and relatives were “under siege”.

“Hum kya bolenge ab? Humare bolne se kya hoga? (What can we say? What will happen if we say something?),” she said.

Visibly angry over the developments, the woman, talking from behind a screen door, alleged that people from Kashmir are already treated as “second class” citizens and once Article 370 is amended, the situation will become worse. “A Kashmiri is picked up by police for anything and everything. Independence Day is around the corner and Kashmiris visiting Delhi will not be able to check into a hotel because of their identity. It will only get worse,” she predicted.

Her neighbour, also a Kashmiri who did not wish to be named, said, “This is all about politics and politicians. The common man in Kashmir had no say in this. We were not even informed, let alone be asked.”

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