What is Article 370 and Article 35A

That is the background to the conflict in Kashmir

The Indian-controlled part of the Kashmir region is to be withdrawn from its autonomous status. The Indian government decided on Monday by presidential decree, as Interior Minister Amit Shah announced. Whether a constitutional article can be changed by presidential decree is likely to have to be negotiated in India's Supreme Court.

Kashmir is a region in the Himalayas and is partly located in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. Articles 370 and 35A of the Indian Constitution officially granted the state far-reaching political freedoms since 1950: The elected parliament of the state should be allowed to independently direct political affairs in Kashmir. The Indian Union Government should only be responsible for defense policy, foreign policy and communication. But decisions in these three areas also had to be explicitly approved by the Kashmiri parliament. This special regulation, which was originally intended to be temporary, was approved in October 2015 by the Jammu and KashmirHigh court approved. The state supreme court ruled that Article 370 should be an integral part of India's constitution.

Why did the state of Jammu and Kashmir have special rights?

The special status of the state with around 12.5 million inhabitants goes back to a historical conflict: Kashmir is a region that lies between China, Pakistan and India.

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After Great Britain granted independence to the colonized countries India and Pakistan in 1947, some Indian princely states were given the choice to become part of either state. The majority of Kashmir, almost 68 percent, are inhabited by Muslims. After decolonization, there were the first attempts from Muslim-influenced Pakistan to bind the previously independent state of Kashmir to the neighboring country.

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In October 1947, however, the Hindu ruler of Kashmir, Hari Singh, declared that the country would be annexed to India, which many Kashmiris resisted. Shortly thereafter, the first Indo-Pakistani war broke out. The death toll is estimated at around 8,000 people. The war ended in 1949 with the formal division of Kashmir into an Indian and a Pakistani part. In order to promote acceptance among the Muslim Kashmiris living in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, the Indian constitution of 1950 granted him a special status.

Why did the autonomy of the Indian part of Kashmir lead to conflict?

Time and again, the rulers of the state of Jammu and Kashmir have made efforts, for example through referendums, to achieve complete independence from India as well as from Pakistan. That led to conflict. The Indian Union then gradually restricted the autonomy of the state. In 1965 the second Indo-Pakistani war broke out after Pakistani fighters invaded the region. Even after its end, there were isolated disputes between the federal states up to 1984 over certain areas in the state.

After 1989 there were increasing calls for a so-called liberation of the Muslim Kashmiris from Indian supremacy, an annexation to Pakistan or for a united Kashmir together with the other parts of the region. There were attacks by Muslim extremists, and Indian troops responded with violence. Clashes between Indian and Pakistani forces broke out. Since 2016 there has been major unrest in the region and serious clashes between Kashmiris and Indian security forces. There were curfews in the state for weeks. Islamist terrorist groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad carried out terrorist attacks in various locations in India.

What now?

The Indian government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is assigned to the nationalist-Hindu camp, is planning to lift some special regulations in Jammu and Kashmir, such as the ban on buying land for Indians.

In addition, 10,000 soldiers were sent to Kashmir. A total of 350,000 soldiers, police officers and other security forces are now said to be there. Roadblocks run through the country. The Indian Air Force is also on alert. Telephone and Internet connections in the state of Jammu and Kashmir have been cut since Sunday night. Since then, many people have been worried about their relatives and friends. Curfews have been imposed in the regional capital of Srinagar and the surrounding area. Jammu and Kashmiri politicians have been placed under house arrest. Meetings are prohibited and schools are closed.

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On Saturday, the Indian government asked tourists in Kashmir to leave the region immediately because of alleged terrorist threats. This led to riots at airports and train stations.

What are the reactions?

"Today is the darkest day in Indian democracy," said the politician Mehbooba Mufti of the People's Democratic Party, which was Prime Minister in Kashmir until 2018. She accuses the government in New Delhi, for example by lifting the land purchase ban, of changing the demographics of the region and making Muslims a minority.

The government in Pakistan also condemned India's decision: "As a party in this international conflict, Pakistan will use all possible options to counter these illegal steps," said the Foreign Ministry.

The geographer Hermann Kreutzmann said in an interview with Deutschlandfunk that although a military conflict between Pakistan and India was unlikely, he feared a “destabilization of the relationship”.