Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government in India often claims that its actions are unprecedented -- that no government in India’s history has been bold enough to do what it does. Most of the time this is, to put it mildly, an exaggeration. But on Monday, they certainly went far beyond what any previous Indian government has done about the troubled state of Jammu & Kashmir. And that’s a big, big problem.
After a tense and terse build-up -- during which a major pilgrimage was canceled, the Kashmir Valley was flooded with soldiers and Kashmiri politicians were arrested -- Modi’s right-hand man, Home Minister Amit Shah, announced a set of Kashmir-related legal changes in Parliament on Monday. In essence they scrap the special status promised to Jammu & Kashmir when it became part of India seven decades ago; divide the state into two; and reduce the power of elected state politicians to pass laws and control the local police. Jammu & Kashmir will no longer have the rights and privileges of a state of the Indian Union, but instead be a Union Territory, with its laws requiring the assent and permission of the government in New Delhi.