Fida Hussain Sodagar
The internet is under siege again in conflict tormented Kashmir. A digital curfew has been imposed in the valley, especially in South Kashmir. The frequent blockade of the internet has caused an economic breakdown. Apart from this, students have been kept away from the current affairs and updated study material for competitive exams. Since the inception of 3G technology in the state, the valley has been under constant virtual shutdowns. (Even the 4G technology was introduced during the communication embargo in the valley). There is Mehbooba G, Rajnath G, Omar G, Farooq G and every type of G in Kashmir but the 3G and 4G remains invisible in the valley.
According to a Delhi based website, internetshutdowns.in that keeps track of the Internet curbs across India, the Internet across Kashmir has remained shut 57 times from 2012 to 2017. According to the other website Medianama.com, Jammu & Kashmir topped the list of states with highest number of 41 internet shutdowns in 2018. A report titled “Clampdowns and Courage-South Asia Press Freedom Report 2017-18” released by the UNESCO-International Federation of Journalists projected that India witnessed highest number of Internet shutdowns in 2017-18.
Interestingly, the report noted that in India, only Kashmir Valley experienced nearly half of the cases of Internet shutdown. In most cases, the justification given for Internet shutdown was to “maintain law and order”, while many shutdowns were either preemptive or reactive measures in the face of mass or potential violent public protests, the report said. The message is clear; Kashmir valley has been the casualty of internet crackdowns recurrently. 4G has been condensed to 2G in Kashmir. There is a reverse flow of technology in the valley. The claims of much hyped initiative of Modi Government “Digital India” have been fractured brutally rendering it just as a hollow political slogan.
The frequent digital curfews in Kashmir block people’s rights to know, and have emerged as a significant tool of censorship by the government. It is increasingly utilizing these shutdowns under the guise of security situations. The telecom companies on the other side continue to charge the customers even during period of shutdowns in an organized deception.
The digital era has been crushed in Kashmir, the digital blossom strangled and digital freedom stands shattered. The people of the valley are now tired of the virtual shutdowns. The solution is simple, either shut the internet once for all in Kashmir or let the digital era flourish and bloom.
The author holds a P.G in Mass Communication and Journalism and writes on various issues. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.