Demanding immediate lifting of ban on internet service, the Communist Party of India (M) on Saturday said government cannot hide behind a likelihood of acts of terror to impose blanket ban on the technology and deprive seven million people of the facility in the Kashmir valley.
While reacting to Government of India’s (GoI) response in Supreme Court over snapping internet services in Kashmir since August 5, CPI (M) state secretary Ghulam Nabi Malik in a statement here this afternoon said that technology has to be balanced out and state can’t deprive seven million people internet facility.
He said by justifying the restriction that social media platform are being used to serve the interest of a section of people seeking to propagate anti-state sentiments, the Center has paralysed the lives of seven million people in the Valley. Snapping of internet services has affected the livelihood of lakhs of traders and common people, he said.
If technology is being misused by some individuals or anti-national elements, the state needs to act against those elements under law. The state can’t shut internet service till eternity and justify the same by saying it can be misused.
The internet shut down in Kashmir for the past 118 days is a grave violation of fundamental right to life. Right to internet is a part of right to life and right to education. Abnormal conditions have been induced in Kashmir through restrictions on internet, he said.
The Central Government has itself recognized internet a basic necessity for education and communication. Despite this, the Government has snapped mobile data connections and broadband services in Kashmir, following the unilateral decision of abrogation of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 on August 5, the state secretary of CPIM said.
He said Article 19 (1) (a) supports democracy but the government is looking to suppress it as everyone has been silenced on the apprehension that everyone is a terrorist. The communication blockade after August 5 has dealt a severe blow to Kashmir’s economy with thousands of people working in private sector losing their jobs.
The tourism sector, which employs close to five lakh people, has been the worst affected in the absence of internet connectivity. Similarly weavers and artisans have been badly hit due to internet gag as carpet and shawl are products of export oriented industry and most of the orders were being placed online. Due to snapping of internet services, all the e-commerce companies have stopped delivering products to the valley.
Education sector has been the worst victim of the prevailing uncertainty with thousands of educational institutions remaining closed since August 5. And with internet services snapped, the students have no source to study at home and clear their concepts. When everything is dependent on internet, Kashmiris have been deprived of the facility. Students are missing golden opportunities to apply for higher studies and jobs as everything these days is online.
The media in Kashmir have been facing major issues due to the communication blockade. The journalists have to visit a government-run, scantily equipped media centre in Srinagar to use the desktops in order to work. The communication blackout imposed meant that there are few ways to verify what is actually happening on ground. . The poor can access government medical care only through the internet and there’s no access.
Malik said the government cannot hide behind a likelihood of acts of terror and restrictions cannot be justified on the basis of J&K being in the grip of terror, which it has been for past three decades. The government has a responsibility to ensure security in Kashmir, but that doesn’t mean it will deprive people basic fundamental rights.
He said the restriction on internet has a disproportionate impact on the fundamental rights of everyone in Kashmir and has the character of collective punishment.