SANA’A – Massive protests have swept across Pakistan in response to the Indian government’s decision to repeal the autonomous status of Jammu and Kashmir and place the region under direct military control.
In Muzaffarabad, the regional capital of the Pakistani-administered area of Kashmir known as Azad Jammu and Kashmir, furious inhabitants took to the streets in protest. Holding black flags and burning tires, the demonstrators chanted anti-India slogans. Massive rallies were also held in Islamabad, the eastern city of Lahore and the southern port city of Karachi.
The protests come after New Delhi on Monday announced the decision to completely repeal the special autonomous status of the Indian-occupied province of Jammu and Kashmir. The region is hotly contested between India and Pakistan, and has been the focal point of three wars between the two nations.
On Monday, the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs announced the repeal of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, which gave the regional government of Jammu and Kashmir an extensive autonomous status. The article had originally been created in order to soothe popular dissent in the Muslim-majority area, in which a large part of the population did and do not desire to be part of the Indian state in the first place.
New Delhi’s policy reversal on Kashmir also included a plan to divide the state of Jammu and Kashmir into two so-called “Union Territories”, to be directly governed by the central government without having any autonomy of its own. The two Union Territories would be the heartland of Jammu and Kashmir on one hand, and a separated territory of Ladakh on the other. Ladakh, a mostly Shia and and Buddhist area in the far north of Kashmir, would as such be separated from Jammu and Kashmir by the Indian government.
The government of far-right Hindu national Narendra Modi also cleared the way for free purchasing of land and housing in Jammu and Kashmir by non-Kashmiri residents. This is widely feared to lead to Israel-style colonisation of Kashmir by Indian settlers from abroad, in an attempt to alter the demographics of the region by settling Hindu colonists.
Imran Khan, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, has announced that he would “exercise all possible options to counter the illegal steps” by India, and called the decision “in clear violation of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions”