Lingering Internet Gag


On Tuesday and Wednesday 27 Members of Parliament of European Union became the first delegation to visit Kashmir in the aftermath of the revoca­tion of Article 370. The visit was sponsored by the Govt of India to show to the world that the situa­tion was normal in the valley . It was also meant to blunt Pakistan’s claims that New Delhi was hid­ing the continuing security lock down in Kashmir from the world. Though the visit ran into some controversy with the opposition parties slam­ming the govt for allowing foreign MPs in Kash­mir but barring them from the state, it doesn’t de­tract from the significance of the EU delegation’s visit. For one, it will help the govt to tide over the mounting global criticism of its handling of State. And for another it shows the govt’s growing con­fidence about the improvement in the situation in the State over the past three months .

But while there are certainly indicators to this effect, what Govt is not doing is to respond to it by relaxing the remaining curbs on the communi­cations. Prepaid mobile phones, SMS service and most importantly Internet services remains shut. And it is difficult to explain the state of affairs considering the valley is now largely peaceful . it is also apparent in parts of the valley where private transport plies more or less normally . But there is still no word on restoring the pre-paid mobile phones and the internet . This has made the cur­rent communication clampdown in the Valley un­precedented in nature. Despite completing Three months since scraping of J&K’s autonomous sta­tus, there is no talk of internet being restored . the Govt hasn’t moved beyond opening up landline and postpaid connections .

This easy recourse to ban on the internet for an extended period is troubling. The presumed Govt rationale behind this blockade is that the content on social sites stokes the trouble on the street . Besides , there is an assumption of a connection be­tween the protests on the streets and the posts on social media websites. Internet therefore is grant­ed a role in abetting the trouble on the ground . But what is also apparent from the security perspec­tive is that internet has only a limited role which can be tackled without blocking the entire web ac­cess. Some people rightly argue that if the govt is scared of the social media, it should temporar­ily restrict access to social media sites rather than make the entire web out of bounds for one and all. This rush to sweeping communication blackout on the shaky premise of this access leading the street unrest is a wilful infringement of the people’s right to know . More so , when it has only helped head off the out break of the protests across the valley .

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