International desk – Indian Supreme Court has taken a petition to hear against federal government’s decision to scrap special status for Indian-administered Kashmir.
The government of Narendra Modi on August 5 revoked a constitutional provision that allowed the Muslim-majority area of Jammu and Kashmir to enjoy special status and brought it under the union government.
The court said a five-judge constitution bench would hear all 14 petitions filed against the government decision in the first week of October.
“We will refer the matter to a five-judge Constitution bench”, the Supreme Court bench, headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, said while not accepting the arguments that the notice to the centre will have a “cross-border repercussion”.
It also asked the government to respond to those challenging the communications blackout and media restrictions in the area that enjoyed partial autonomy.
There has been little news from the region as mobile networks and the internet have been shut down, although a partial restoration of connectivity recently has enabled some landlines to start working again, according to BBC
The court observed that if a person wanted to travel to the region then they should not be prevented from doing so and allowed one of the petitioners to travel to Anantnag to meet his parents.
The government has justified its stance, saying the restrictions were needed to maintain law and order and prevent violence from breaking out on a mass scale.
The decision has, however, sparked protests in Kashmir Valley, some of which have turned violent. But the government has maintained that the region has been largely calm.
Article 370, as the constitutional provision guaranteeing special status was known, allowed the region a certain amount of autonomy, including special privileges in property ownership, education and jobs. This provision had underpinned India’s often fraught relationship with Kashmir.
There has been violence in the Indian-administered side – the state of Jammu and Kashmir – for 30 years due to a separatist insurgency against Indian rule, with tens of thousands of people killed.
Kashmir saw a heavy deployment of armed forces ahead of the government decision to scrap its autonomy, and officials say protests have been largely curtailed.
Thousands of people, including local politicians, activists and business leaders, remain in “preventive detention” with many transferred to jails outside the state.