On the morning of August 5, locals in Jammu and Kashmir woke up to a communications blackout and a curfew. While they were asleep, signal bars on mobile phones vanished and the internet was turned off. In a first in recent years, landlines too were severed. India’s northernmost state, it seemed, had travelled back in time. Thousands of paramilitary personnel, most of whom had been flown in on giant IAF C-17 heavy-lift aircraft in several waves over the past few days, fanned out into the streets to enforce the curfew. Ten days before the 72nd anniversary of India’s midnight ‘Tryst with Destiny’, the stage was being set for another tectonic shift: the ‘dilution’ of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution and the bifurcation of J&K to create two Union territories—Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh. The passage of the J&K Reorganisation Bill by Parliament on August 6 means India now has 28 states and nine Union territories. It is the first time a state in the country has been turned into a Union territory.
Article 370 was a ‘temporary provision’ included in the Constitution on October 17, 1949. It exempted J&K from the Indian Constitution and permitted the state to draft its own constitution. Its dilution has done away with all of the erstwhile state’s special powers, including that of the state legislature to draft its own laws on all subjects other than communications, defence and foreign affairs. Gone