By Mirza Sharafat Hussain Beigh
An indefinite ban on Internet service over pre-paid mobile phones in Kashmir continues into the seventh month. Such a stifling restriction imposed by the administrative authorities has become a routine alongside claims of the return of ‘normalcy’. This ban on what has acquired the status of an almost essential service elsewhere has become a routine here which accompanies a whiff of any possibility of a political protest the administration might foresee. It has gone nearly unnoticed, under the radar for far too long, and no one is ever held accountable for this service generally used by the economically weaker sections of the society and the student community whose dependence on Internet keeps increasing exponentially with the passage of time.
Numerous issues arise from the ban as the administration appears aloof. This is perhaps because the administration’s antennae are rarely attuned to what concerns the poorer sections of the society; a large student population, an evolving community of bloggers and those for whom Internet-driven social media has become an important tool for news, knowledge and the ability to stay in touch with family, friends and colleagues.
In the days when even the administration often boasts about connectivity and smart classes etc., as the students have to increasingly rely on online notes, classes and tutorials, the local government appears totally oblivious to the difficulties the ban on pre-paid mobile internet services mounts for large sections of the society. Students are compelled to wander from shop to shop and sometimes to far places where they are able to access the World Wide Web. I have seen people searching open hotspots to meet their requirements as most of us have become dependent on such Internet service.
Exams are being conducted, registration for which and the admission process itself is wholly executed through internet seems illogical when a huge percentage of internet users rely on prepaid internet service.
The ban on prepaid internet service may be ‘helpful’ from administration’s point of view but to halt the action of a ‘miscreant’ through restrictions over all internet users is irrational to say the least. The responsibility lies on the shoulders of concerned agencies to bridle the ‘negative events’ happening over the internet, instead of banning entire prepaid internet system.
Imposing ban on internet service is against the interest of general public who have been made to suffer for seven long months just based on a questionable reasoning that a small percentage of internet users may create trouble over social networking sites. This when there is a comprehensive cyber vigilance has acquired an all pervasive form.
People are supposed to buy new compatible phones and getting new postpaid connections to tackle the current situation, which in turn puts pressure on lower middle class community. Not only this, students who cannot afford such gadgets are still waiting for the government’s decision as when the ban will be lifted so they could access the regular courses and activities over the internet.
I appeal Chief Minister and Governor of Jammu and Kashmir to ponder once over the restriction which is only adding to anger among the youth and add to their mounting difficulties. The ban actually mocks at the idea of a digital India.
—The writer is a blogger and likes to call himself a whistleblower.