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The Indian Government Is Revoking Kashmir's
The Indian government on Monday announced plans to divide up the contested Himalayan region of Kashmir and change the constitutional settlement guaranteeing its semi-autonomous status, provoking uproar in Parliament and fears of an imminent clash with Pakistan.
Jammu and Kashmir, which includes the Kashmir Valley, is India’s only Muslim-majority state and the subject of a long-running territorial dispute with Pakistan, which currently administers territory lying west of the Indian-administered state. The nuclear-armed powers have gone to war over Kashmir twice, and there’s a long-running insurgency on the Indian side between separatists and the army that has left at least 40,000 people dead since 1989.
India’s home minister Amit Shah made Monday’s announcement without consulting Kashmir’s state legislature. It came after days of rising tensions. On Saturday, Pakistan accused India of firing banned cluster munitions across the de-facto border dividing the Indian and Pakistan-administered Kashmir, killing two Pakistani civilians. In recent days, India has sent 10,000 extra troops to Kashmir, cut phone and Internet access, placed prominent Kashmiris (including leading politicians) under arrest, and told pilgrims visiting from other parts of India to leave.
Later on Monday, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan denounced India’s plans to divide Kashmir into two federal territories and change its constitutional status as “irresponsible, unilateral and irrational.” “Pakistan will exercise all possible options to counter the illegal steps,” the country’s Foreign Ministry added in a statement.
What is Article 370 and why is it important?
Kashmir’s status as a semi-autonomous state is complex. It has its roots in the partition of British India in 1947, when Kashmir’s Hindu ruler decided to join India rather than Pakistan on the condition that it was granted a level of autonomy. Over the years, that autonomy was worn down by the central state, writes Professor Sumantra Bose in his book Secular States, Religious Politics. But opposition to Kashmir’s “special status” has only increased since, in tandem with the rise of Hindu nationalism.
The two most significant concessions given to Kashmir in the Indian constitution of 1950 were Article 370 and Article 35A. Article 370 gave Indian-administered Kashmir autonomy in all areas except defense, communication and foreign policy. Article 35A gave only “permanent residents” of Kashmir the right to own property.
Since the 1950s, Hindu nationalists have rallied against these exceptions, arguing that Hindu-majority India must not bend its constitution for Muslim-majority Kashmir. During the 2019 election campaign, the BJP promised to revoke Kashmir’s “special status,” tapping into many Hindu voters’ hostility toward Muslims and mistrust of Pakistan.
What other changes did Home Minister Amit Shah announce on Monday?
As well as the plan to revoke Kashmir’s “special status” from the constitution, the Indian government also brought forward plans to reorganize the administrative borders in the region.
Shah introduced to parliament a plan to break up the current state of Jammu and Kashmir into two separate “Union Territories.” One, which will retain the name Jammu and Kashmir, will have its own legislature. The other, the sparsely-populated region of Ladakh, will be ruled directly by India’s central government. The effect of such changes will be to increase the Delhi government’s control over both.
What’s the situation on the ground in Kashmir now?
As the news filtered across the region and the world, residents of Kashmir itself were left in the dark. On Sunday, the day before Shah’s announcement, the Indian government had shut down Internet access and phone lines in Kashmir. That evening, Kashmiris knew something big was going to happen — they just didn’t know