Revoking of Kashmir status a 'betrayal of India constitution'

Saturday 10th August 2019 19:30 BST

Every few metres soldiers from the para military and police man the streets.

Check posts, razor wire and anti riot vehicles stationed on strategic roads and intersections. Movement of people and vehicles is restricted.

Tensions rose in the valley when the Indian government revoked Article 370 of the constitution which guaranteed the people of Kashmir special privileges.

Under the special status Kashmiris could own property, get government jobs, scholarships and other privileges. But now all this withdrawn.

According to the government the special privilege was a temporary measure inserted in the constitution. By virtue of the presidential decree that has been revoked.

Moreover the state was divided into two union territories, now directly governed by Delhi.

Analyst and scholar Saddiq Wahid told Sky News: "It represents a betrayal and not just a betrayal of the people of Kashmir. It's a betrayal of the Indian constitution and I can't say that loudly enough because that's what the constitution says.

"The constitution also says that you cannot change the structure, the territory of the state of any state in India without consulting the people."

We travelled to downtown Srinagar, the old quarters where protests are first to kick off.

Since the clampdown hundreds of people took to the streets after Friday prayers. Carrying black flags and chanting anti-India and Freedom slogans they marched peacefully. There were reports of sporadic stone pelting on security personnel.

The uncertainty is further fuelled by a complete communications blackout. Internet, mobile and phone services have been cut off for days. Across the state people can't get in touch with their loved ones.

Sitting beside me on the flight to Srinagar, a young man said he was worried about his parents as he was unable to communicate with them. He took days off from work to travel here.

Prior to this decision hundreds of political leaders and activists of the state have been taken into preventive custody, including former chief ministers of the state and union ministers. Separatist leaders have been arrested and taken out of Kashmir.

This crackdown has left a void and could easily take a violent path in a leaderless demonstration.

On the streets the decision has brought wide spread anger, fear and a sense of betrayal.

Professor Inayat Hussain told Sky News: "There is no future, first of all we have no identity, we are not Kashmiris now, they are going to change everything."

Mohamad Khan, a resident of the capital, added: "The future is very dark, India wants to change the demography of Kashmir."

Mr Wahid said: "Seven million people can now be divested of a cultural, linguistic and religious heritage that they valued and they tried to protect with a special arrangement between Delhi and Kashmir.

"For the last 70 years and this gives the government carte blanche regarding that. Which means it allows them on the one hand to demographically flood this place and or punish the place for asserting its identity so that the Muslim majority character of it is dissipated."

Srinagar was on edge for Friday prayers and security forces braced themselves for a face off.

Kashmir was the only Muslim majority state in India. The real fear for people here is without the protection of a special status the demography will change.

As people absorb their new status they are hurting and the tension is palpable.

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