By Ummer Keel
Suspicion and apprehension cannot be the basis on which the government can take decisions. Doing so, exposes the loopholes and fractures that the machinery of government may be hiding from public.
The frequent strangulation of internet in the Valley rightly represents suspicion-based decision making. It lays bare the unsustainable and fallible strategies that administration has made use of, to deal with a recurrent and persistent issue that actually requires a well thought out and an out of the box solution. Besides, frequently banning the internet—a basic human right– to maintain law and order situation is a proof that they have glorified the means and forgotten the ends of administration.
Never in the history of Jammu and Kashmir has the evidence of failure of the policing been more manifest than now, as shown by the seeming inability of the police to protect young men and children from getting killed. In this context, all laws to an extent, may have to limit individual rights, and preferences but such laws must endure, as a test, that they confer benefits, which considerably outweigh their limitations or rights violation character.
The frequent ban on internet almost entirely fails this test, especially in its complete acceptability to the changes in the social conditions and advances in technology. All nations across the world are systematically promoting and inculcating the habit of interest-use among the citizens and efforts are made to foster an ecosystem of digitalization that shall promote e-governance and electronic business transactions.
Apart from the infringements on the human rights, the use of interest cannot be evidence of criminal intentions in itself. Otherwise , developing democratic countries across the world would not allow and promote its use among the citizens.
Hence, the internet should not be banned. What is unacceptable and should be banned are those internets users who are resorting to rumours and hate-mongering. For that, it is the duty of the administration to create the required infrastructure that would unable these trouble makers from exploiting the internet. It is unjust to deprive so many people of the choices of using internet just because of the few who may be using it to further rumours. The cost to personal freedom and choice clearly overweighs the security benefit the ban may indeed possess.
The viral-video circulation, are actually circulated even after the internet gets restored and can also be done through other multimedia sharing devices that does not require any internet connection. The ban on the internet use is even more reprehensible because the security benefits it can deliver are far from certain. The police have offered facts and figures on how people with vested interests may be using internet to carry out their nefarious activities. The public is thus not in a position to judge what the ban may deliver vis-a-vis other measures to curb incidences of violence.
Kashmiris would, no doubt, be happier to hear from the police what it is doing to enhance its capacity to prevent the losses of innocent lives and investigate the human rights violation rather than blanket ban on internet use. J & K police is right to adopt all useful means to fight rumours, hate-mongering on the internet. The measures banning internet is not one of those useful means.
Without appropriate access to internet students in the valley feel ghettoized in a vacuum of information poverty, which in turn is compounded by the lack of other necessary and suitable means of information and knowledge. The repeated ban on internet in the valley forces the students in a competitive disadvantage over other students who are preparing for various exams elsewhere. Even the administrators running the administration in the Valley know how important internet access is to the preparation of exams. Without appropriate access to internet students cannot, for example, prepare their notes, make assignments or remain updated with national and international current events and news which is important from preparation point of view.
Therefore, it is high time that government rethinks, and reconsiders its unsustainable policy of recurrent internet ban and let us breathe in knowledge based interconnected world. Democracy, of course, fosters in an open space and definitely not in compartmentalized pigeon holes. Attempts to reduce the slippery and inflammable masses into narrow water-tight chambers have the tendency to gain stress to ultimately generate earthquakes of phenomenal magnitudes.
I still have hope(s )and believe that government will soon break away from the medieval and colonial thinking and usher in an atmosphere of freedom and justice.
—The author is an MBA from a British university and is currently working as a financial analyst for individual clients. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org