SHOPIAN: The internet gag imposed since September 22 in Shopian and Pulwama districts, to curb circulation of videos through which policemen were announcing their resignations, has come at a time when students and apple traders are in much need of online connectivity.
Students in these twin south Kashmir districts said they are afraid of failing deadlines to submit online various examination and job-related forms. “I was planning to get admission at AMU but I am not able to submit my entrance exam form, as there is no internet for the past four days,” said a post-graduate student from Shopian.
Students in Pulwama said there are just four days left for submitting NET forms, which can only be submitted online. Another student, Tanveer Ahmad Lone, said he was getting late in applying for the GATE exam. “The internet gag is not only denying us access to the application forms but also access to study material,” he said, adding that many students are facing problems in submitting forms for scholarships.
A Kashmir University student, Arshid Ahmad Shah, who belongs to Shopian district, said, “On the one hand they (government) are making tall claims of ‘Digital India’ and on the other hand they are denying us access to basic internet.” He said that the new Governor, Satya Pal Malik, recently said that for youth in south Kashmir the government will launch an FM radio station in the region. “There claims are all lies,” Arshid said. “Students as well as common people are suffering due to the authoritarian attitude of the government.”
An apple trader who does business at Arhama Mandi in Shopian, Javid Ahmad Khan, told Kashmir Reader that apple traders are facing hardships due to the internet gag. “The market rates of our fruit in mandis outside the state are already low. We used to send photos of our fruits there on Whatsapp and Facebook, but now we can do nothing,” he said.
Mubashir Ahmad, a computer-center owner based in Pulwama, said that many students use the internet for their education and academic work, which they are unable to do now. “We are running a central government-sponsored course, PMGDISHA, which provides education through internet,” he said, adding that students in Pulwama fail to compete with students from other districts due to the frequent internet shutdowns.
A senior police officer based in Srinagar told Kashmir Reader that there is a temporary shutdown of internet because of the prevailing situation. “We are investigating different cases, such as the Pakistan-sponsored social media campaign (he was referring to circulation of resignation videos of policemen). These were horrifying videos, meant to create terror. We are investigating that,” he said.
On when the internet would be restored, he said police are still keeping a check on circulation of “fake news”.
In Shopian and Pulwama districts, there have already been 60 days of internet shutdown since the beginning of this year, before the latest gag was put in place.