At the stroke of the midnight hour on 5 August 2019, Jammu and Kashmir was blanketed in a state of siege. 35,000 fresh troops in addition to the existing 6.5 lakhs were present with orders to shoot, curfew, internet and phone shut down, media black out, and all major elected leaders under house arrest. Already, there was escalated aggression over the past week, with reports of military takeover of state institutions and frenzied evacuation of tourists and Amarnath yatris. Schools, universities and hostels were also shut down, and movement across the state restricted. With a complete gag on democratic space, and unprecedented terror among people, Union Home Minister Amit Shah tabled the resolution in Rajya Sabha to revoke autonomy in Jammu and Kashmir.
At 11:15am on 5 August 2019, Amit Shah announced that the President had already passed orders effectively abrogating Article 370, by extending all the provisions of the Constitution to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Through convoluted and illegal processes and amendments, Amit Shah then moved to introduce the J&K Reorganisation Bill in Parliament among heavy protest and disruption- a power that the Parliament would not have been allowed under the unamended Article 370. The Bill bifurcates the state into two Union Territories: one of Ladakh, and one of Jammu and Kashmir. The UT of Ladakh is under the direct control of the Union Government through the Lt. Governor, while the UT of Jammu and Kashmir has a Legislative Assembly of its own with extremely limited powers, and is overall under the Lt. Governor.
The BJP government did not circulate the Bills in the House beforehand, and the Speaker Venkaiah Naidu allowed MPs time only until 12:30 pm to propose amendments. It appears that preparations for the move had been underway for months, as the imposition of President’s Rule in December 2018 helped facilitate the government’s actions today. The people of Kashmir themselves are denied any voice through the unconstitutional capture of state institutions and elected representatives, and the force of sheer state terror.
As the day progressed, the Rajya Sabha has passed the Reorganization Bill, and it is now due to be tabled before the Lok Sabha tomorrow. 8000 fresh paramilitary troops and counting have been moved to Kashmir from the states of UP, Odisha, and Assam; and law and order forces of the entire country have been placed on high alert. By the evening, Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah have also been taken into preventive detention. The blackout in the Valley prevents any access to information about the conditions of the people on the ground at the moment, and we fear ominous consequences as the BJP government brings its plan for the people of Kashmir into action at gunpoint.
We strongly oppose the move of the BJP government to unilaterally attempt to revoke the autonomy of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, with no regard to the Constitution and the rights it enshrines.
Shahana Bhattacharya and Deppika Tandon