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India’s top court upholds repeal of Kashmir’s autonomy, orders elections next year

The Indian Supreme Court building is pictured in New Delhi, India. (Via AFP)

India’s Supreme Court has upheld a 2019 decision to revoke the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, ruling that the Muslim-majority territory should regain its state designation with local elections to be held next year.

In 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government revoked the Indian constitution’s Article 370, which had given the region significant autonomy.

Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) argued Article 370 needed to be scrapped to integrate Kashmir and put it on the same footing as the rest of India.

On Monday, the top court concluded that the 2019 imposition of direct rule over Kashmir, a snap decision that led to protests and mass arrests, was in the framework of the law.

The five-judge bench headed by Chief Justice D. Y. Chandrachud said that the article was a “temporary constitutional provision” enacted due to wartime conditions in the State and was meant to serve a transitional purpose.

Chandrachud said the “restoration of statehood shall take place at the earliest and as soon as possible,” as he directed the country’s Election Commission to hold polls in Jammu and Kashmir by the end of September 2024.

The remote mountainous region of Ladakh, previously a part of Jammu and Kashmir, was turned into a standalone territory. Parts of the disputed region are claimed by both India and China.

The reclassification of Ladakh was also upheld, the Supreme Court said Monday.

Modi on Monday hailed the court’s verdict as a “resounding declaration of hope, progress and unity.”

“Today’s Supreme Court verdict on the abrogation of Article 370 is historic and constitutionally upholds the decision taken by the Parliament of India on 5th August 2019,” Modi wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

He added that the verdict was “a beacon of hope, a promise of a brighter future, and a testament to our collective resolve to build a stronger, more united India.”

Revoking Kashmir’s special status was one of Modi’s key promises during his 2019 general election campaign and the Supreme Court verdict comes just months before he is expected to run again for a rare third term.

Since stripping the region of its special status, Modi’s government has also been trying to change the demography of the Muslim-majority valley.

The repeal of Kashmir’s special status has also brought disappointment among Kashmiri politicians in the region who said will not “give up.”

Former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah posted on X (formerly Twitter) that he was “disappointed but not disheartened.”

“The struggle will continue. It took the BJP decades to reach here. We are also prepared for the long haul,” he wrote on X.

“The people of J&K are not going to lose hope or give up. Our fight for honor and dignity will continue regardless,” wrote Mehbooba Mufti, former chief minister and current leader of the Jammu and Kashmir People’s Democratic Party. “This isn’t the end of the road for us.”

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