4G Hope

At long last, the J&K administration has told the Centre that it has no objection to restoring 4G internet services, as high-speed internet will not be a security concern. In a recent interview to a national daily, the Lieutenant Governor GC Murmu said that his government was no longer afraid of high-speed internet.  “Pakistan will do its propaganda, whether it is 2G or 4G. It will always be there…but I don’t see an issue,” the LG is quoted to have said. This is a welcome change of heart. One can look now forward to restoration of the 4G in the near future, hopefully around Eid-ul-Azha.

The past year has played out like a horror story on many counts. Soon after the Article 370 was annulled on August 5 last year, the government placed Kashmir under a security blockade and communication blackout. It was only after a month that the least used landline phones were restored followed by re-opening of the post-paid mobile phones without texts after two and a half month. It took the government more than six months to restore internet, that too  a severely curbed 2G connection with access to only a few hundred government chosen white-listed websites. This was made possible only after the Supreme Court declared the indefinite internet gag in Kashmir as impermissible and illegal.  The court, however, didn’t order the government to end the gag but only asked it to review it on a weekly basis. So, the government only eased the internet ban, didn’t end it.

Government later gave selective access to fixed line internet to major government departments and businesses after they signed an undertaking that the service will not be ‘misused’.  It was only sometime later that the government allowed an unrestricted access to the broadband.

Drawn internet gag and social media ban all but halted the informal collective conversation that gives vent to and shapes up public opinion. In a severely regulated information environment, government was able to control what people know and what they don’t.  It also evacuated the everyday life of the play of the conventional mainstream and separatist discourses and temporarily pushed them out of collective memory.

At the same time, the lockdown and prolonged internet gag wrecked the local Kashmir economy, including IT companies and start-ups. The children couldn’t study online as the 2G speed wasn’t sufficient enough to access video lessons.  The people in J&K would thus welcome the restoration of high-speed mobile internet.  This would go a long way to normalize the life in the union territory following a year-long disruption.

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