Srinagar- The Jammu and Kashmir government on Monday ordered the continuation of the ban on high-speed internet in Jammu and Kashmir till May 11.
In a latest order issued by the Home Department, the reason cited for the decision includes spurt in militant violence, the launch of new outfits and “well-founded” apprehensions of the “field agencies” regarding “enhanced efforts by Pakistan for recruitment in the (militant) ranks as well as infiltration attempts, which heavily depend on high-speed internet.”
“Such restrictions have been placed in order to curb uploading, downloading, circulation of provocative videos, guard against rumor-mongering, fake news, prevent the use of encrypted messaging and VOIP services for infiltration and coordinating (militant) activities, and defeat the nefarious designs from across the border to propagate (militancy,” reads the order issued here by Principal Secretary Home department.
It said the misuse of data services by “anti-national elements” has the potential to scale up violent activities and disturb public order, “which has till now been maintained due to the gradual easing of restrictions on access to the internet while ensuring that rights and interests of the citizens are not affected adversely.”
“Now, therefore, on consideration of the overall security scenario and the reports of the law enforcing agencies, I am satisfied that there is no other alternative but to continue with the speed restrictions in respect of access to the internet through mobiles while providing unrestricted fixed-line connectivity i.e. without any speed restrictions, and, accordingly, in the interest of the sovereignty and the integrity of India, the Security of the State and for maintaining public order, ….I, Principal Secretary to the Government, Home Department, hereby direct that there shall (restrictions on access to the internet with mobile data services restricted to 2G only,” reads the order, adding that these restrictions shall continue till May 11.
J&K’s Internet Restrictions Figure in UN Report
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression has said that limitations imposed by the government on internet in Jammu & Kashmir have made access to basic information difficult for healthcare professionals.
In his report titled “disease pandemics and the freedom of opinion and expression”, UN rapporteur David Kaye has expressed concern over internet restrictions in Kashmir. “It has been reported by health-care professionals in Kashmir that the limitations imposed by the government have made access to basic information difficult to obtain,” reads the report.
The report is being submitted to Human Rights Council’s 44th session scheduled from June 15 to July 3, 2020
According to the report, the continuation of restrictions on internet has been troubling, amid outbreak of COVID-19. “In the context of the pandemic, it has been especially troubling to observe the continuation of several instances of Internet shutdowns. The most prominent has been the long-term disruption that the Government of India has imposed on Kashmir,” reads the report.
Referring to UN experts’ statement in August 2019, the report states that the government imposed what several mandate holders found to be “a form of collective punishment of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, without even a pretext of a precipitating offence”.
“Early in 2020 the Supreme Court of India found that the Government must periodically justify its continuing actions in Kashmir, but even as of this writing, reporting suggests that people in Kashmir are only able to access limited Internet sites and with extremely limited speeds,” the report states.
On 22 August 2019, a group of five United Nations human-rights experts had issued a joint statement asking the government to end the crackdown on freedom of expression, access to information and peaceful protests in Kashmir.
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