End Internet Gag

It has been around three and a half month since Kashmir has been into uncertainty following the scrapping of Article 370. An ordinary day in Valley goes like this: Businesses remain largely  shutdown. Shops open in the morning and post 5 pm. But in many areas businesses have started to remain open through the day. There is still some reluctance though. The opening of businesses is seen as damaging to the demonstration of public opposition to the revocation of Article 370.  Schools are closed.  Prepaid phone and sms services remain snapped. Same goes for the mobile and broadband internet connection. The continued absence of internet connection has wrought havoc with the businesses. It has also hampered education of students. Journalists too are finding it difficult to file stories. They have to travel long distance to the Media Facilitation Centre to do so.

But the government has persisted with its clampdown on the Internet even though the blocking of the internet hasn’t made much of a difference to the situation on the ground. The government sees the discourse on the social media in some way responsible for the flare-up on the streets. But as the situation in the state over the past more than three months would have us believe, there is hardly a case for drawing this connection. By Government’s own admission there have been more than 300 instances of law and order problems. But it is also a fact that an uneasy calm has more or less held. And it is because people this time round have preferred to protest peacefully by shutting down businesses. There has hardly been a recourse to throw stones as was in evidence in 2016 following the killing of the popular militant commander Burhan Wani.  So, continued shutdown of internet seems inexplicable. Far from helping in any way to improve the situation, the communication blockade has been a source of more public frustration. It has effectively cut people off not only from their immediate surroundings but also from the world. The consequent information vacuum is now being filled in by the rumours and a pervasive sense of the uncertainty.

It is thus very important that the government reviews its decision to prolong the ban on internet. This is turning out to be a collective punishment of the worst kind. More so, when it has begun to take a heavy toll on the local economy and led to loss of jobs by thousands of people.





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