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 • India's top court yesterday 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 replies to 14 petitions and inform the court about the media restrictions imposed in Kashmir. It said five judges will start a regular hearing on the matter in October.

The Indian government, led by the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, had imposed a security lockdown and communications blackout in Muslim-majority Kashmir to avoid a violent reaction to its Aug 5 decision to downgrade the region's autonomy.

The restrictions have been eased slowly, with some businesses re-opening, some landline telephone service restored and some grade schools holding classes again, though student and teacher attendance has been sparse.

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

The Himalayan region is also claimed by India's arch-rival Pakistan and divided between them. Pakistan has shut train service with India, stopped bilateral trade and expelled the Indian ambassador in response to New Delhi's decision.

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.

In Islamabad, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi yesterday asked the Indian government to immediately release all detained Kashmiri leaders and "innocent people" and lift the curfew.

He also demanded that India should allow UN observers and human rights organisations to examine the situation in Indian-controlled Kashmir.

The Supreme Court ordered the federal government to file replies to 14 petitions and inform the court about the media restrictions imposed in 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.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 29, 2019, with the headline 'India's top court to examine change in Kashmir's status'. Print Edition | Subscribe