NEW DELHI – The Indian government headed by Narendra Modi, has placed two former Chief Ministers, Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah under house arrest after sending 35,000 paramilitary into Jammu and Kashmir.
Expert Jay Tharappel first lamented that this was “possibly because they’re planning on abolishing Articles 35A and 370 guaranteeing special status to Jammu and Kashmir, which thus far has kept the state demographically unaltered by immigration from the rest of India.”
He then went onto explain why he believes the Indian government is brewing sectarian tensions between the Hindu and Muslim communities – to keep the ruling
“Those articles of the Indian constitution are the terms and conditions by which Jammu and Kashmir acceded to the Indian Union in the context of the 1947 war, but abrogating these articles, treating Jammu and Kashmir’s legal parliamentary leaders like criminals, and abusing President’s Rule in this manner will only breed resentment and reactive militancy, which I suspect is what Modi wants given that fomenting communal tensions is how the BJP stays in power.”
Article 370 provides special status to the mainly Muslim population of Jammu and Kashmir. The move to rescind Kashmir’s special status was a campaign promise of India’s governing Bharatiya Janata Party. For many years, Kashmir has been governed differently than other parts of India, and the government’s decision is widely seen as a blow to Kashmir’s autonomy.
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Ahead of the announcement, the Indian government sent at least 8,000 additional paramilitary troops to Jammu and Kashmir. Additional troops are being carried by C-17 transport planes of the Indian Air Force to Srinagar, which is the largest city in the state, the NDTV broadcaster reported. The troops are set to ensure increased security and will add to the over 35,000 soldiers that were sent there over the last week.
The Indian authorities also evacuated tourists, closed schools and cut off internet service. New Delhi has also put its armed forces on high alert to prevent attempts by secessionist groups to foment trouble in Kashmir. Regional party leaders have also been taking into custody. Security has been increased across India, particularly at key installations, including the Metro Rail in the capital New Delhi.
Reports indicate that more troops could be airlifted to reinforce security in Kashmir. New Delhi deployed additional troops in the region last week following attempts by militants based in Pakistan-administered Kashmir to cross over to India, intermittent firing by Pakistani forces and reports of possible terrorist strikes against the annual Hindu pilgrimage to the Cave Shrine of Amarnath.
Relations between India and Pakistan have traditionally been tense over competing claims to parts of the Kashmir region since the countries gained independence from the British Empire in 1947.
The strife escalated after a deadly attack in Kashmir on February 14, when a suicide bomber from the Pakistan-based terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammed attacked an Indian security convoy, killing over 40 personnel. The Indian Air Force retaliated with an airstrike against what it claimed to be a camp belonging to the Jaish-e-Mohammed in the Pakistani side of Kashmir.