When India on Monday ended the autonomous status of occupied Jammu and Kashmir, voices of dissent did not only emerge from opposition but also the media.
Before revoking Article 370, Delhi deployed tens of thousands of additional troops to counter protests, key Kashmiri political leaders were put under house arrest, tourists were evacuated, Amarnath Yatra was cancelled and internet services in Kashmir were suspended.
Although the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had always been averse to Kashmir having a special status, it could not earlier revoke that because of its reliance on allies during earlier stints in power. The 2019 elections gave the BJP a decisive majority, enabling it to implement its long-time plan with regard to Kashmir.
While some Indian journalists voiced support for the government's move, other questioned the BJP's motives, how the repeal came about through a rushed presidential order and what India would achieve from taking such a drastic step, with many asking: "What will Delhi do with the powers it has in the new Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir it will govern?"
Here, Dawn.com takes a look at some of the articles which appeared in Indian media outlets following the government's contentious move.
"Not only has Union home minister Amit Shah stripped Article 370 of its essence, he has gone one step further and abolished the entire state as well, replacing it with two ‘Bantustans’ – grandly called ‘union territories’ – in which key decisions on a range of issues like law and order and land will be taken not by the people and their elected representatives, but by bureaucrats from New Delhi.
So after being pampered and appeased, the poor Kashmiris – whose ‘special status’ brought them ‘human shields’, ‘half-widows’, pellet blindings, fake encounters like Pathribal and Machhil, torture and disappearances – need to brace themselves for a bout of tough love."
"The message from Monday’s decisions is loud and clear: New Delhi, from now on, won’t be keen on taking the difficult but democratically prudent path of peace-building in Kashmir, nor would it be willing to keep Kashmir on the negotiating table with Pakistan.
The easy part, of issuing a Presidential Order, and announcing it in the Parliament, while keeping a tight grip on the security situation in the Valley, is over. Now comes the difficult part of justifying the constitutionality of the decision, and this would most definitely lead to a long drawn out legal battle."
"Think of the proposal’s broader ramifications. India has betrayed its own constitutional promises. India has many asymmetric federalism arrangements outside of Kashmir. This act potentially sets the precedent for invalidating all of them. How can we justify offering Nagaland asymmetric federalism but deny it to Kashmir? Its implication is that the government can unilaterally declare any existing state to be a Union Territory. This is a constitutional first. We are simply a union of Union Territories that happen to be a state at the discretion of the Centre.
Let us also not put too fine a point on this. Even if Article 370 were to be scrapped, the proposal to alter Jammu and Kashmir’s status to Union Territory, even if temporarily, is designed to humiliate an already subjugated population. How dare a Muslim dominated state exist in India? Kashmir can now not even be trusted to be a state. The optics of this measure is not integration, it is humiliation, of a piece with subtle and unsubtle reminders to minorities of their place in India."
"According to senior sources in the government, the BJP’s ideological imperative of doing away with Article 370 has been always there, but the impetus for it was provided first by Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s determination to change the status quo in the State and also events in the past two weeks, after U.S. President Donald Trump publicly said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had approached him to play mediator for the dispute in the State.
The Union government, of course, denied any such conversation with Mr. Trump, but the realisation in government circles was to do something that would demonstrate that it was irrevocably opposed to US mediation."
"Most egregious of all was the legal fiction underpinning the process. Because President’s rule was in force, because the government had been unable or unwilling to hold assembly elections, the Parliament of India could pretend to speak as the Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir.
So even though the people of the state were forced indoors, their leaders put under house arrest, their communications turned off, their ability to protest banned, their right to have public representatives through assembly elections curtailed, India’s official legal history will record that Jammu and Kashmir asked for this to happen to itself. India moved its lips, and will now pretend that the voice that came out was that of Jammu and Kashmir."
"What is also curious is the timing of the move. Why could this not have been done before or after the Amarnath Yatra? The claim that the Amarnath Yatra was suspended because of a ‘terror threat’ now appears thin.
The timing of the move is clearly to shift the headlines away from the economy. Kashmir, Kashmir, Kashmir will be what we will talk about for many weeks to come. The Modi government will not have to answer any tough questions about the economy anymore. Did demonetisation lead to the slowdown? Is the GST still a mess? What is the government doing to arrest the shutting down of car manufacturing units that’s leading to massive job losses? The answer to all your questions about the economy is Kashmir.”
"Many hold the view that Article 370 may not be abrogated at all, legally. This idea merits some exploration.
The constitutionally legitimate way to abrogate Article 370 will be for the President to issue a public notification abrogating Article 370, under Article 370(3) of the Indian Constitution as applied to India. In fact, the Rajya Sabha has attempted to recommend that the President pass such a notification in its 'Statutory Resolution'. Such a notification would only have been valid, in India, if the Constituent Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir had consented to the abrogation — which needless to say, no longer is in existence."