A group of citizens from the Kashmiri Pandit, Dogra and Sikh communities issued a statement on Saturday condemning the revision of Article 370 of the Constitution to revoke the special status of Jammu and Kashmir. The 64 signatories rejected the “unilateral, undemocratic and unconstitutional imposition” on them, reported The Quint.

Some prominent names in the group were those of cardiologist Upendra Kaul, Retired Air Vice Marshal Kapil Kak and journalists Pradeep Magazine, Sharda Ugra and Anuradha Bhasin. Students, academics, theatre professionals and homemakers also signed the statement.

The group said the Centre’s decision was “made in stealth and [by] using coercive means” and called for “an immediate lifting of the state of siege” in Jammu and Kashmir. The state has been under an unprecedented security and information clampdown since the evening before the Centre’s first announced the decision on August 5. Prohibitory orders were relaxed on Friday, but were imposed again in parts of Srinagar on Sunday ahead of Bakrid festival, according to some reports.

The group said the decision was “in violation of the historical promises” made to Jammu and Kashmir by the Union of India – a reference to the terms set by the ruler of the erstwhile princely state while acceding to India in 1947, which formed the basis of Article 370.

Last week, the Centre decided to revise the article to a single clause revoking the state’s privileges and ordering all laws to be applicable in the region the way they are in the rest of India. The contentious article had so far ensured that the state had its own laws, flag and a Constitution. The Union government also split the state into two Union territories, which will come into existence on October 31.

“We take this opportunity to remind the citizens of India that Jammu & Kashmir chose to accede because of the secular & democratic character of the Indian dominion,” the group’s statement said. “The state of Jammu & Kashmir was the only princely state which negotiated the terms of its accession during the proceedings of the Constituent Assembly of India in 1949, consequent to which the Article 370 came into existence without any opposition.”

The statement said: “The clandestine manner in which the Government of India proceeded in the matter, in complete exclusion of the opinion & consent of the Legislative Assembly of the J&K amounts to an authoritarian & undemocratic rejection of all norms of democracy. We reiterate the fact that, we the people of Jammu & Kashmir were not consulted and no decision about our future, taken without our consent can be termed as legitimate.”

“We demand immediate revocation of communication gag on the people of J&K,” they said. “We also call for all political representatives to be freed from arbitrary and illegal detention. We are pained at the division of our homeland and we pledge that we stand united in this time of trial and crisis. We will resist any attempt made to divide us on ethnic, cultural and communal lines.”

The state’s Legislative Assembly was dissolved in June 2018 and the state has been under President’s Rule since then. Assembly polls will be held only for the Jammu and Kashmir Union territory when it comes into existence, as the other Union territory carved out of the state, Ladakh, will not have a legislature.