Ever wondered why the government keeps on extending the ban on high-speed internet in Kashmir? It is because of our dependence on it. We are an information-based society and we consume it more than food. Psychologically as well as sociologically, governments first frighten people, bring them to their knees, tighten their grip on an aspect which impacts everybody, and ultimately place themselves as saviours. By controlling information, by sabotaging its source, by enhancing the vulnerability and sense of victimhood of people, governments set themselves up as all-powerful, all-providing.
We seek information more than ever. It is a sort of craving. Staisfying this craving or denying it is part of the technology of maintaining a totalitarian state. By creating information insecurity, the government allows itself to take decisions that confuse people and create ambiguities in perceptions. George Orwell in “Nineteen Eighty-four” wrote that freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two makes four – if that is granted, all else follows; but in J&K that freedom is restricted to officials and their diktats.
Even amidst the outbreak of novel coronavirus, in which high-speed internet could be a saviour, the state is not ready to relent. The government is continuously trying to sneak the bone out of the dog’s mouth, the bone being 4G. The legal process allows for keeping up the suspense, the tension, as PILs are filed in High Court, then Supreme Court, the courts issue show cause notice to the governments, giving them time to respond of 7 days or 14 days, and then the government comes up with the same reply that due to security concerns we can’t allow the opening of 4G services, and so this continues, like a loop.
What is that threat to security for which 4G is necessary? The government’s main concern seems to be social media, but that can be done away with by simply shutting the social media sites. But no! How then will the government prove that it is the Baap?
The internet shutdowns have kept on increasing since 2015. That shows at least the failure of the current government when it comes to handling dissent. They can’t even deal with criticism online, let alone street protests. First the government goes paperless, digitises the administrative and other procedures, and then chokes the citizens with extended internet blockades. It’s a new standardised tool-kit for squeezing people. Internet, and particularly high-speed internet, has become an integral part of our lives. People are not even able to get what they are paying for when they recharge their mobile phones for internet data. The internet shutdowns are not really affecting the revenues of telecom companies.
Imagine for a moment that 4G is nothing, and as humans we have adapted to living even without internet. But still the government will squeeze, as if at a pimple to draw out some puss. It is a psychological technique of torture as well as control. The government, meanwhile, will keep manufacturing distractions so that this goes unnoticed.
The writer is a research scholar at Department of History, University of Kashmir. [email protected]