Wahid Bhat | Srinagar
Just a few days after the Supreme Court of India ordered an internet shutdown review in Kashmir valley, the local administration decided to strictly lift the ban on broadband for government websites. The move takes place almost after two weeks after the administration has restored the SMS service in the Kashmir valley.
In August 05 2019, Jammu and Kashmir was put under heavy security blanket to prepare the erstwhile state for the abrogation of article 370 and 35A. all the communication service like phone landline, internet, broadband were also suspended in Kashmir.
In a three page order, the home department said that additional 400 internet kiosks to be established in Kashmir division.
Internet service providers will offer broadband facility (with MAC binding) to all institutions dealing with essential service, like hospitals, banks also in government officers.
Mac binding means to enforces a client machine to work from a particular internet protocol address.
In order to facilitate tourism, broadband internet would be provided to hotels and tour and travel establishments.
The order also said that the 2G internet on postpaid mobile for accessing white-listed-websites including E-banking will be allowed in districts of Jammu, Samba, Kathua, Udhampur and Reasi- all in the Jammu division.
Till August, resident of Jammu and Kashmir lived under a separate set of rules, pertaining to citizenship and property ownership. But the centre led by BJP , revoked the contentious article 370, bringing Jammu and Kashmir under the constitution’s ambit.
After the historic move thousands of security personnel were sent to Jammu and Kashmir, communication modes were completely suspended and politicians put under detention.
Restoration Sources told Groundreport.in “broadband facility is being restored to get essential service functioning properly and tourism restarted. The will be a total ban on social media, through. A call on extending the facility to the general public will be taken after January 26 depending on the security situation”.
Service were restored despite threats.
The three page order also specified that it is the institutions responsibility to prevent any misuse of internet service by terrorists could potentially disrupt the valley’s status quo with militant groups repeatedly trying to infiltrate the border. They should appoint nodal officers, allow authorized users, maintain a record and also monitor usage.
In Kashmir, internet will be restored in phases
Access would be first allowed in central Kashmir including capital Srinagar, which will be followed by north Kashmir (Kupwara, Bandipora and Baramulla) two days later.
South Kashmir (Pulwama, Shopian, Kulgam and Anantnag) comes last, after another two days.
A review will be conducted after a week and the Liautentant Governor will then take a call on the restoration of cell phone internet.
Last week, SC advocated right to internet
The development comes after the Supreme court (SC) said the right to the internet and basic freedom cannot be an arbitrary exercise of freedom of expression.
Political analyst reactions
We had a bigger militancy in 1998 and there was no internet at the time. Now as, the government claims, militancy has decreased. For some militants it is not right to take an entire society hostage. On the contrary modern communication technolofies will help contain them Said Noor Ahmad Baba, A political analyst in Kashmir.
Internet was blocked 106 times
According to Delhi based software freedom Law centre, India shuts off internet more than any other country in the world. In 2019 the interne was blocked 106 times across the country and 55 times in Jammu and Kashmir alone.
According to data compiled by internetshutdowns.in, India has witnessed 106 shutdowns in 2019. From 2012, India has registered 363 internet shutdowns. In 2016, erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir registered the longest internet shutdown. Internet services were suspended in Jammu and Kashmir for 133 days. Web services remained suspended between July 8 and November 16 in 2016 after the encounter of Hizbul militant Burhan Wani. While mobile Internet services on postpaid numbers was restored on November 19, 2016. Mobile Internet services for prepaid users were resumed in January 2017, this implies they faced almost a six month Internet shutdown, the shutdown tracker website report said.
At present, Union Territories of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh are witnessing internet shutdown since August 4, 2019.
India leads the world in the number of Internet shutdowns, with more than 100 incidents reported in 2018 alone, as per a report by Freedom House a US-based non-profit organisation that conducts research and advocacy on democracy, political freedom, and human rights.
Lose due to internet ban
As per a study by Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations, Internet shutdowns in India from 2012-2017 resulted in the economy suffering a loss of $3 billion (approx ₹87,000 crore). Besides economic loss, these shutdowns have a far-reaching social and psychological impact as well.
The constant blockade of connectivity restricts people from expressing themselves freely- a right given to every Indian under Article 19 of the Indian constitution.
The Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI), a union of traders, said the internet blockade forced a loss of nearly 18,000 crore rupees ($2.5bn) in the last five months.
“In our report, which we compiled after 120 days [of shutdown], businesses suffered huge losses … Internet-based industries such as tourism, export, silk carpet industry, e-commerce and social entrepreneurship are completely shut. The ban hampered our day-to-day trade,” KCCI president Sheikh Ashiq said.
The prolonged internet blackout also hit students, professionals, journalists, activists and emergency services in the region.