It was simply tyranny on Eid-ul-Adha when the ruling coalition government in the state enforced a blanket ban on the Internet. The PDP, which claims to fight a “battle of ideas” in a democratic way, while enforcing the ban made a mockery of itself.
For three consecutive Eid days Kashmiri Muslims were not allowed to exchange pleasantries with their relatives living around the world. The ban was enforced for the clichéd ‘security and maintaining law and order’. Was the ban enforced on the BJP’s directives or was it a decision of the PDP alone? Ex chief minister of the state, Omar Abdullah along with his party tried to come across as holier-than-thou, but they were the same party who also followed the UPA diktat and enforced a ban on Internet when Afzal Guru was secretly hanged in Delhi’s Tihar jail. Afzal was hanged to satisfy the “collective conscience”. The ban on Internet on the sacred days of Eid-ul-Adha reminded the people of Kashmir of post Afzal hanging days. The NC, then the ruling dispensation, led by Omar Abdullah put the whole Valley under curfew and blocked access to internet and stopped newspaper circulations.
Mufti Sayeed’s “battle of ideas” is taking a pounding as he is frequently doing things which he promised before coming to power would not be repeated. He rearrested the pro-freedom leader Masrat Alam Bhat under Indian media pressure and slapped PSA on him, termed as a lawless law by Amnesty International and undemocratic by the state’s highest court. It again convinced Kashmiris that like the NC, the PDP is spineless before New Delhi.
The decision to impose a ban on Internet for three days is an important decision and should not be seen in isolation. The ban was imposed, the state machinery said, to stop vitiation of the atmosphere of communal peace. The state government was apprehensive that the people in the Valley will slaughter cows as sacrificial animal and then their pictures will go viral which will promote a backlash from Hindu organisations working in many parts of the state. It was a speculative decision. Days before Eid-ul-Adha, when the ban on slaughtering bovines was announced in Kashmir, many cows were slaughtered and there was no backlash. No Hindu-Muslim riot or skirmishes took place in the state. Sacrificing bovines on Eid-ul-Adha is a centuries old tradition in Kashmir. Even Chief Minister Mufti Sayeed said that issues like beef ban will not shake his government. But come Eid, the same government puts a blanket ban on Internet on the same pretext!
In 2011, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, called for need to secure access to the Internet for all. Countries like Finland announced access to Internet for its citizens as a legal right. But still in our part a state can snap such an important mode of communication.
Paradoxically, the ban on internet was ordered when the Indian PM was on a visit to Silicon Valley and boasting of the importance of Internet, referring to online, offline as new status; facebook, twitter as new neighbourhoods! While the Indian PM was saying these things, his party in coalition with the PDP in Kashmir enforced an e-curfew for nearly 80 hours. This blanket ban reminds one the words of French philosopher Charles-Louis de Secondat: “There is no greater tyranny than that which is perpetrated under the shield of the law and in the name of justice.”