The legislation divides the Indian-administered Kashmir into two federally governed territories.

An Indo-Tibetan Border Police officer stands guard on a road in Srinagar on October 31, 2019.
An Indo-Tibetan Border Police officer stands guard on a road in Srinagar on October 31, 2019. (Reuters)

New Delhi on Thursday formally implemented legislation approved by Parliament in early August that removes India-administered Kashmir's historical semi-autonomous status and begins direct federal rule of the disputed area amid a harsh security lockdown and widespread public disenchantment.

The legislation divides the disputed Muslim-majority region two federally governed territories.

The Hindu nationalist-led government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi sent thousands of additional troops and arrested pro-independence as well as pro-India activists before imposing the changes in the disputed region. 

The most visible ones are the absence of Kashmir's own flag and constitution, which were eliminated as part of the region's new status.

But the most contentious change for many people is the threat of land grabs by Indians outside the region with the formal abrogation of a clause in the Indian Constitution that safeguarded Kashmiris' exclusive right to land ownership.

"Everything changes on Thursday. From a state, we are reduced to a municipality," said a retired Kashmiri judge, Hasnain Masoodi, a member of India's Parliament. "The entire exercise is unconstitutional. The mode and methodology have been undemocratic. People were humiliated and never consulted."

Masoodi represents the National Conference, a powerful pro-India Kashmiri political group whose leaders have been detained.

Some other changes that have occurred since August:

Information warfare 

Ahead of the biggest political change in India-administered Kashmir, authorities shut down internet access, mobile and landline phone service and cable TV for the region's 12.5 million people.

The shutdown disrupted business and schools and demoralized the people.

With international pressure mounting to restore freedoms, authorities have begun easing the restrictions, lifting roadblocks and restoring landlines and some cellphone service. They have encouraged students to return to school and businesses to reopen. But Kashmiris have largely stayed home in defiance or in fear amid threats of violence.

Authorities continue to limit internet access, saying it is likely to be used by insurgents to organize anti-India protests and violence.

Protests and arrests 

Despite a siege by tens of thousands of government forces, hundreds of anti-India protests and clashes have erupted across the region. Government forces have fired tear gas, shotguns and firearms to prevent stone-throwing protesters from marching in the streets, leaving at least three people dead and hundreds injured.

At least 4,000 people, mostly young men, had been arrested since the security lockdown was imposed in the first week of August. Indian officials say at least 3,000 have since been released.

About 250 of those still being held have been moved to various jails in other parts of India.

Records show that about 300 of those are being held under the Public Safety Act, which allows authorities to detain people for up to two years without trial.

Supreme court battle 

Kashmiri people's hopes rest with India's Supreme Court, which is set to begin hearings in early November on petitions challenging the validity of the abrogation of Article 370 of the constitution, which gave a special status to Kashmir. A decision is expected within several months.

What does Modi plan? 

The Modi government says Kashmir's new status gives its people right that were denied to them under its past special status, including a right to education, a minimum wage law and statutes ensuring the rights of minorities.

Modi says an end to an anti-India insurgency would boost tourism in Kashmir, known for its stunning mountain vistas, and encourage outside investment that would improve its economy.

Many Kashmiris say the unilateral move was New Delhi's ultimate plan is to change the demographics of the Muslim region by settling Hindu outsiders.

The revoked article constitution had protected the demographic make-up of the majority-Muslim Himalayan region by not allowing outsiders to purchase land there.

Pakistan's response

Kashmir has remained divided between India and Pakistan, which gained independence in 1947 when British colonialists left the subcontinent.

The 1948 war between the two countries had ended with the region divided between them, though both claim it entirely, and also resulted in the unfulfilled promise of a UN-sponsored referendum on the future of the disputed region.

Islamabad allows people of Pakistan-administered Kashmir to purchase properties across the country. It does not allow people from other parts to purchase land in Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

Pakistan has reacted strongly to the changes imposed by India in the area it administers by downgrading diplomatic relations with New Delhi and ending bilateral trade. It also has stopped train, bus and postal services.

Pakistan has vigorously raised the issue at the UN, international human rights organisations and other forums. It says it will continue to give moral and diplomatic support to Kashmiris opposed to Indian rule.
Rebels have been fighting Indian rule for decades.

Some 70,000 people have died in clashes between militants and civilian protesters and Indian security forces since 1989. Most Kashmiris want either independence or a merger with Pakistan.

Source: AP