India's top court to examine change in Kashmir's status

Indian paramilitary soldiers stand guard near a checkpoint during a lockdown on Aug 23, 2019.
Indian paramilitary soldiers stand guard near a checkpoint during a lockdown on Aug 23, 2019.PHOTO: AP

NEW DELHI (AP) - India's top court on Wednesday (Aug 28) took up legal challenges to the government's decision to revoke Indian-controlled Kashmir's special status and asked the government to explain its stance to the court.

The Supreme Court ordered the federal government to file its replies to 14 petitions and inform the court about the media restrictions imposed in Kashmir. It said five judges would start a regular hearing on the matter in October.

India's Hindu-led government imposed a security lockdown and communications blackout in Muslim-majority Kashmir to avoid a violent reaction to the Aug 5 decision to downgrade the region's autonomy.

The restrictions have been eased slowly, with some businesses reopening, some landline phone service restored and some grade schools holding classes again, though student and teacher attendance has been low.

The revoked status has touched off anger in the region where local police and administrators now work under federal control and where locals fear their culture and demographic identity is under threat.

The Himalayan region is also claimed by India's arch-rival Pakistan and divided between them.

Pakistan shut train service with India, stopped bilateral trade and expelled the Indian ambassador in response to New Delhi's decision.

At the court's preliminary hearing on Wednesday, Chief Justice Ranjan Gogi and two other judges rejected the government's opposition to a notice on the issue, as this may be cited by Pakistan at the United Nations.

 

Attorney-General K.K. Venugopal said he and another law officer were representing the government before the court.

"We know what to do, we have passed the order, we are not going to change," the Press Trust of India news agency quoted the judges as saying.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan plans to address the UN General Assembly on Sept 27 to highlight what he calls "Indian atrocities" in its portion of Kashmir.

The court also sought a government reply within seven days to a petition filed by Kashmir Times executive editor Anuradha Bhasin seeking restoration of all modes of communication, including mobile Internet and landline services, to help the media work in Kashmir.