IT conference in Delhi: Kashmiri Participants Decry Internet Gag

NEW DELHI:Participants from Kashmir at a conference organised by the Information and Technology (IT) ministry here today protested over the issue of continued suspension of Internet services in the Valley for over 100 days.



The incident took place after IT and Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had finished his speech and left the venue of the meeting.



The main grouse of the participants from the Valley was that the minister had left the venue without hearing their plea and hardships due to continued clampdown on Internet services.



Agitated protesters were heard shouting that the government's digitisation programme was a farce as the "Kashmir Valley has seen no Internet connectivity for more than three months." "How will you provide (Digital) service without Internet connectivity?" one protester asked.



The representatives from the Valley are here to attend a function organised by the ministry under which government plans to throw open franchises of Common Service Centres (CSC) in the entire state.



"Why do you see us Kashmiris differently? We have not come to eat...if we have some problem where will we share it.



If you have called us, it is our right to speak. Is it a sin if we share our issues with minister?," said one of the participants.



The Internet services in the Valley were suspended on July 9, a day after killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani in an encounter. Since then, only broadband services of state-owned BSNL and private operators is working while the mobile Internet continues to remain suspended.



CSC makes available government services to people in rural areas online like ration card, birth certificate, train tickets, online form submission etc.



As the participants from the Valley were sharing their problems with the media, one government official intervened and asked the reporters to stop their interaction and cover the conference.



This led to heated arguments between the officials and the participants leading to chaos and sloganeering.



CSC e-Governance Services India CEO Dinesh Tyagi later said, "the protesters calmed down afterwards. They have raised issue of non-availability of government services to citizens in the state and Internet connectivity issue on which the minister (Prasad) has assured that he will write to state Chief Minister (Mehbooba Mufti) and look into the issue." 



Tyagi said that around 580 Village Level Entrepreneurs from Jammu and Kashmir, who run CSCs, participated in the conference.

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