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Kashmir crisis: what's going on and why does it matter?

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By Mark Armstrong with Reuters
A rally in Pakistan to protest against the special status of Kashmir by the Indian government
A rally in Pakistan to protest against the special status of Kashmir by the Indian government   -   Copyright  Reuters
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What's going on in Kashmir?

People are angry at the Indian government for revoking the special status of the part of Kashmir that it rules over.

A brief modern history

The Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir region has been disputed ever since the partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947.

It was expected to go to Pakistan. It's Hindu ruler at the time wanted to stay independent but, faced with an invasion of Muslim tribes from Pakistan, acceded to India later that year in return for protection.

Since then India and Pakistan have fought over the territory.

A UN-monitored ceasefire line agreed in 1972, called the Line of Control (LOC), splits Kashmir into two areas: one administered by India, one by Pakistan.

Their armies have for decades faced off over the LOC. In 1999, the two were involved in a battle along the LOC that some analysts called an undeclared war.

Their forces exchanged regular gunfire over the LOC until a truce in late 2003, which has largely held since.

So where did all that leave Indian-administered Kashmir?

It left Kashmir with de-facto political autonomy.

Under its special status (sometimes known as Article 370) it empowered the Jammu and Kashmir state parliament to grant special rights and privileges to permanent residents such as the right to buy property.

And it's the loss of those rights that's making Kashmiris angry?

Basically yes, they're concerned about an influx of Indian citizens and losing their control of state government jobs and college places.

What does India say?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government has said the revocation of Kashmir's special status was necessary to ensure its full integration into India and speed up development. He was also delivering on longstanding pledges to his nationalist BJP party.

What does Pakistan say?

Protests have been taking place across Pakistan ever since India announced its decision to scrap Kashmir's special status. The government declared a symbolic "black day" in protest at the move by Delhi.

What about the UN?

The United Nations said the security lockdown and restrictions that have been introduced are deeply concerning and will exacerbate the human rights situation

What is the potential for the situation to escalate?

Enough for India to have deployed an extra 35,000 troops to the region ahead of the decision and cut off the internet.

Some political leaders in Kashmir have warned that the repeal of Article 370 will trigger major unrest as they say it amounts to aggression against the region's people.

To complicate matters, there's been a long-running insurgency against what many Muslims living in Kashmir have seen as heavy-handed rule by Delhi. It's estimated that around 50.000 people have died as a result. Some commentators now say the separatists will become more militant.

But perhaps the biggest problem could be India's neighbour Pakistan.

The nuclear-armed neighbours have fought two of their three wars over the territory

What's the latest?

In the latest development in Kashmir, the Indian authorities imposed strict restrictions in the region's main city of Srinagar ahead of Friday prayers.

New Delhi says the move was to prevent any protests and that curbs on movement and communications in the region would be lifted in the next few days.

Telephone and internet links were cut and public assembly banned in Kashmir this month, just before New Delhi removed the decades-old autonomy the Muslim-majority territory enjoyed under the Indian constitution.

Security forces were deployed outside mosques across Srinagar, while police vans fitted with speakers asked people not to venture out, according to witnesses.

Earlier this week thousands of people protested outside the Indian High Commission in London. Many waved Pakistani and Kashmiri flags.