On Thursday, the Supreme Court sought response from the union government on a petition filed by a body of media professionals accusing Centre of contempt for not carrying out periodic review of its orders suspending internet services in J&K. In a previous order, the apex court had asked the centre to set up a special committee on restoring mobile internet services in J&K. The committee was supposed to undertake the weekly assessment of the situation in J&K to see if it was conducive for the restoration of high speed mobile internet. The petitioner, NGO Foundation for Media Professionals has claimed that no such assessments have been conducted and as such has urged the court to initiate contempt proceedings against the Centre.
However, the government through its Attorney General KK Venugopal has denied there was any contempt on the Centre’s part. The Attorney General told the court that the committee had met twice since the court order in May and has asked the J&K administration to find out if relaxation was possible in curbs on internet services.
On July 9, the J&K administration had once again extended the ban on 4G mobile internet until July 19. The administration has so far showed little inclination to review the ban. In its order the administration has reiterated that banning the high speed internet was absolutely necessary “in the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India, security of the state and for maintaining public order”. The order also states that restrictions on internet have been imposed to prevent its “misuse” for various anti-national activities.
But 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 high speed internet 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 doesn’t spread – it has recently put Kashmir under yet another lockdown – it is restricting what should have been its primary tool to create awareness about the disease. More than preventive measures, it is how much people are aware about the Coronavirus that will help the government in the fight against the disease. But the administration, it seems, doesn’t want it. Its approach, as always, remains security centric when the need of the hour is to prioritize healthcare.
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