August 6, 2020
By Haider Kaleem
One year has passed since the Indian state imposed a ban on internet access in Jammu and Kashmir. The ban on the internet was accompanied by a ban on mobile and telephone connections as well, though these services later resumed the internet ban persist to a large degree.
This is not the first time the Indian state has placed a blanket ban on communication services in the occupied valley under the pretext of national security. The only difference is that the internet ban imposed in August 2019 is an instrument of crushing the legitimate right to self-determination of Kashmiris.
The crippling ban has caused immense financial hardship to many journalists, students, and business people, adversely affecting the livelihoods of 7 million Kashmiris overall. According to international organizations, this is the longest internet ban imposed by a democratic government in all recorded history.
Nighat Dad, the lawyer and head of the Digital Rights Foundation (DRF), bashed the Indian government’s internet ban. “In modern times, the right to free assembly and expression are no just exercised physical world but also in the online realm. For this reason, an internet ban is a direct attack on the fundamental democratic rights of the citizenry”.
Sibghatullah, a young activist from the Jammu and Kashmir Student Liberation Front, says his entire life has been affected by the lack of internet services “The ban has impacted educational and business activities and destroyed grassroots political movements on both sides of the border.”
While Pakistan administered Kashmir has also seen internet shutdown owing to several factors, the Indian side has faced the brunt of the crisis. “Our lives have almost come to a halt. Business people are going bankrupt, and students have not been able to keep up with their studies. How can you survive in the modern world without channels of effective communication” he exclaims.
A member of the Software Freedom Law Center, an organization operating in India, told VoicePK.net that the internet ban has adversely impacted the capacity of journalists to report the situation on the ground. I know off several journalists who have not been able to file stories because of the ban. A fellow journalist had to send a pen drive to Delhi because the content could not be sent over the internet. “While internet access has been officially restored in the valley, the ground situation is far from optimal. Many areas have access to 2G internet only, which is prone to several connectivity issues,” she explains.
The world is reeling from a pandemic, and a lot of day to activities have moved online. The absence of a functioning and stable internet has crippled life in the valley.
A letter issued by the Occupied Jammu and Kashmir government on July 29 reiterated the ban, the 85th order issued by the Home Department in 2020.
This is the 180th internet ban imposed on the valley, and the situation indicated that more might follow.