Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on Foreign Affairs, Seán Crowe TD, has criticised the Indian government’s surprise decision to revoke the special constitutional status of Kashmir and stated it could inflame tensions and lead to further conflict in the region.

Deputy Seán Crowe said:

“Article 370 of the Indian constitution gave Jammu and Kashmir special dispensation to make their own laws on everything apart from matters of foreign affairs, defence, and communications. This constitutional provision is hugely significant, and it was granted in exchange for Jammu and Kashmir joining the Indian state after its independence from British colonial rule.

“India and Pakistan both fully claim sovereignty over the whole of Kashmir and they have fought two wars over the region. It is currently divided into Pakistan-administered Kashmir and Indian-administered Kashmir with a heavily fortified and militarised line of control separating them. There has also been an insurgency in Indian-administered Kashmir since 1989.

“The decision of the Indian government to revoke this hugely significant constitutional provision without even a parliamentary or public debate in advance is deeply worrying and shocked many. Many Kashmiris believe that this is an attempt by the ruling right wing and Hindu nationalist BJP party to change the demographic character of Jammu and Kashmir, the only Muslim majority state in India.

“The Indian government imposed a communication blackout on Kashmir hours before it revoked it’s special status. This unprecedented communications blackout, now in its fourth day, has been rightly criticised by the UN’s special rapporteur on freedom of expression.

“The latest restrictions in Indian-administered Kashmir are deeply concerning and will inevitably exacerbate the human rights situation in the region. Political leaders in the region were arrested after the decision was made and it is being reported that they are still detained. This constitutional change without consultation with Kashmiris inflames an already delicate political situation and could lead to further conflict in the region.

“I am calling on the Indian government to end the lockdown and communications blackout of Jammu and Kashmir. It should also reverse its rushed decision to revoke this important constitutional provision.”