At one fell swoop, India’s central government has ended the special status enjoyed by Jammu & Kashmir and abolished it as a state. For 70 years it had granted the bitterly disputed Muslim-majority region a modicum of autonomy within India. Late at night on August 4th phone lines, television and internet access were cut and leaders of its political parties put under house arrest. The next morning India’s home minister carried a package of legislation into the upper house of parliament. It proposed a radical reorganisation of the territory. It took the house just 90 minutes to strip it of statehood and divide it into two parts to be ruled from Delhi. Kashmiris had been warned, as had the rest of India. It still caused shock.
The Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (bjp) led by the prime minister, Narendra Modi, had long argued that Jammu & Kashmir’s special status was an error, dating from soon after India’s independence. Mr Modi’s re-election in May, with an overwhelming majority in parliament, gave him the confidence to correct it—knowing that doing so would anger Pakistan (which also claims the territory) and enrage many Kashmiris. Pakistan duly expelled India’s high commissioner and suspended trade. A curfew imposed on the region on August 5th has kept Kashmiris quiet, for now, as has the presence of thousands of additional Indian troops who have been pouring in since late July, ostensibly to prevent terrorism.