The Majority, the Minority
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India’s top court upheld a government decision to strip the disputed Jammu and Kashmir region of its special autonomy status on Monday, a move criticized by local stakeholders but hailed by Hindu nationalists, the BBC reported.
The Supreme Court ruled that the federal government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, did not overstep its powers by revoking Article 370 of the constitution, which granted the territory its own legislature and symbols.
In 2019, Modi fulfilled a campaign promise by splitting the 12-million-inhabitant state of Jammu and Kashmir into two separate entities and centralized power in the federal government. The government claimed the aim was to bring the region onto an equal footing with the rest of India.
After the 2019 constitutional amendment, the government ordered a crackdown on local activists and politicians, with the latter two groups claiming that federal institutions did not have the right to remove statehood without the consent of the Jammu and Kashmir legislative assembly.
But in its verdict, the Supreme Court countered that “the state of Jammu and Kashmir does not have internal sovereignty different from other states.”
Even so, the judges called on the government to restore statehood and hold elections in the coming year.
Once a princely state, Jammu and Kashmir joined India in 1947. Through Article 370, its parliament granted privileges to the state’s population over other Indians. For example, Indians from outside the state faced a ban on buying property.
The region has been the subject of an everlasting territorial dispute between Hindu-majority India and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, both nuclear powers that have engaged in two wars since the independence of both countries after the end of British rule in 1947.
Meanwhile, Kashmir is the sole Muslim-dominated region in the country.
As a result, Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party has been accused of pushing for the dissolution of the predominantly Muslim region to gain more power for Hindus there.
For example, critics say the lifting of the property-ownership ban for non-Kashmiri Indians could transform the region’s demographics.