Chorus For High-Speed Internet Grows In Kashmir

Farooq Abdullah’s letter to PM Narendra Modi seeking restoration of high speed internet in Kashmir

Srinagar – The chorus for restoration of high-speed 4G internet services on mobile phones in Jammu and Kashmir has grown following the detection of the first case of coronavirus in the Valley.

Former chief minister and Srinagar MP Dr Farooq Abdullah and Amnesty International on Thursday  urged Indian government to restore the services to help raise awareness about the dreaded disease that has engulfed the world.

“World’s battling coronavirus but J&K admin still unrelenting & refuses to lift inhuman ban on 4G. In times of COVID pandemic, access to Internet & info is a necessity not a privilege. Are Kashmiri lives so cheap? (sic),”wrote Iltija Mufti, daugher of former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti on her mother’s Twitter handle.

She has been using the former chief minister’s Twitter account since Mehbooba was detained on August 4 last year.

The government in a recent order said the low speed internet will continue in the union territory till 26 March “in the interest of sovereignty and integrity” of the country.

In his letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi Dr Abdullah sought immediate restoration of high-speed 4G internet services saying people can not work from the confinrs of home under current crisis with 2G internet.

“The people are being advised to work/study from home, but this is impossible with 2G internet speed and limited fixed line internet penetration. I would, therefore, request you to restore 4G internet services in Jammu and Kashmir at the earliest to ease the suffering of the people,” he said in the letter.

The government in a recent order said the low speed internet will continue in the Union Territory till March 26 “in the interests of sovereignty and integrity” of the country

Srinagar mayor Junaid Mattu said he has written a letter to Union Home Minister Amit Shah requesting that 4G Internet services be restored in J&K.

Internet No Luxury

People in the valley say the high-speed internet was not a luxury anymore, but a necessity in view of the virus outbreak across the world and have demanded its immediate restoration.

“The administration in J&K must realise how important high speed Internet can be at this time. People need to know information in real-time so that they prepare and pre-empt their actions against the spread of this virus,” Shuja-ul-Haq, president of Kashmir Press Club, said.

The residents in Kashmir said the world was looking up, on internet, for information to curb the spread the virus, so it was high-time for the authorities to restore the high-speed data services on mobile phones.

“With growing fear of coronavirus in Kashmir, the world advances towards the virtual world to curb misinformation and increase awareness among people. Isn’t it high time to restore 4G in Kashmir? Wani Shahid, a resident asked.

“It is high time now that the authorities take a decision on restoration of 4G internet in the valley,” another resident, Sardar Nasir Ali khan said.

Read KO Editorial: Restore 4G

The Kashmiris appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister to intervene in the matter.

“It is a humble request to the PM and HM to restore 4G in Kashmir as soon as possible keeping in view the vulnerability of coronavirus.

“Less people are aware of this pandemic here and restoring 4G will help,” Rayees Ahmad said.

Rameez Nazir said it was the high-time to restore 4G services in valley in order to allow people to work from home.

Many Twitter users criticised the authorities for posting the awareness videos on the social media, saying the low-data speeds do not help their cause.

“Authorities in #Kashmir are posting videos on Twitter about preventive measures during the pandemic. But on the other hand they put restrictions on the internet those who run this system are combination of arrogant and ignorant that makes them lethal #Restore4GinKashmir, a user Aanis Bhat wrote.

Another user, Shazia Bakshi, said the only tool for communication in times of social distancing was being denied to the people of J-K.

“Internet is perceived to be a bigger threat to #Kashmiris than #Coronavirus !! At a time when #SocialDistancing is a way to survive this apocalypse, the ONLY tool for communication, knowledge, connectivity, information, work et al is being denied to us! Shame! #Restore4GinKashmir (sic),” she wrote on Twitter.

“In this tough time when life is battling to fight deadly disease of #coronavirus worldwide people are informed and educated against the safeties, but unfortunately this government is not restoring the main medium of communication which is Internet in Kashmir. #Restore4GinKashmir,” Basharat Gul Hassan, another user wrote.

A student Nayeem Dar said the students were the suffering the most due to the restrictions on the internet speed.

“If JK administration really cares about the people of Kashmir, then 4G restoration should be their first priority. Being a student myself, I know we suffer the most,” he said.

Internet services were suspended in Jammu and Kashmir on August 5 last year hours before the Centre announced the abrogation of provisions of Article 370.

While the 2G services on postpaid mobile phones and broadband and lease-line services were restored months later, the 4G services continued to remain suspended.

Lift Internet Curbs In J&K: AI

Amnesty International India (AII) on Thursday urged the Centre to immediately restore high-speed 4G internet services in Jammu and Kashmir to help people in preparing against the spread of coronavirus.

AII executive director Avinash Kumar, in a statement, said the COVID-19 situation is constantly evolving and to ensure its full communication to the people of J and K the Centre must urgently lift internet restrictions in the region and ensure real time preparedness of the people against the spread of the virus.

“The responses to corona virus cannot be based on human rights violations and a lack of transparency and censorship,” the statement said.

It said that despite four positive cases of coronavirus being confirmed in the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir, the government has ordered the continued restrictions on full internet services such as restricting speed to 2G in the region.

“Complete internet shutdowns have also been imposed intermittently in certain areas in the guise of security. There is growing anxiety around the pandemic and unwarranted restrictions on content and dissemination of information only stands to add to the panic. Complete shutdowns or restricting of internet speed or access makes it difficult for people to navigate their way through a difficult time further undermining their trust in the authorities,” the statement said.

The Centre needs to adopt a “rights-respecting” approach to protect public health and restore access to 4G speed internet, Kumar said.

Human rights approach must be at the centre of all prevention, preparedness, containment, and treatment efforts to protect public health and support the most vulnerable groups, he said, adding that the right to health as guaranteed under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides for the right to access healthcare.

-With Inputs From PTI

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