At a time when people in Kashmir desperately need high speed internet for more awareness about the dreaded coronavirus pandeic, the government has decided to extend the restrictions on the service until March 26.
Internet on mobile phones will continue to be only 2g. Government has cited recent terror activities and misuse of social media as reasons. The order issued by the government read that it was “absolutely necessary so to do, in the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the state and for maintaining public order”.
While government’s apprehensions may be true, they do not justify the continued suspension of the 4G internet. More so, when the service is urgently required to spread awareness about coronavirus among the people. In this day and age, when people get most of their information from social media, government could have used the internet to deepen awareness about COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus. Information about the disease and its real-time dissemination among people is critical to fighting it. It empowers the people to take precautions and preventive measures on their own. But the government, it seems, doesn’t want it. Its approach, as always, remains security centric when the need of the hour is prioritize healthcare.
Newly launched Apni Party leader Altaf Bukhari has said as much in his demand for restoration of 4G internet. Bukhari has rightly highlighted educational benefits of 4G for students who have to study at home as schools have been closed. Also, no matter what government says, its security argument to keep 4G internet suspended isn’t convincing enough.
Truth is the situation in the Valley hasn’t been calmer than it is now in a long time. It has been months since the Valley has witnessed a protest or a stone-throwing incident. So, to say that 4G will pose threat to security doesn’t hold water. Besides, even if a few people are suspected to “misuse” the internet it doesn’t justify the collective punishment. More so, at a time when health of people is at risk. While on the one hand, government is taking every preventive to ensure COVID-19 – shutting down schools , blocking entry of common people to Secretariat and intensifying screening at airports and entry roads – it is restricting what should have been its main tool to spread awareness. More than preventive measures, it is how much people are aware about the disease that will help the government in fighting the disease.