‘Ban Was Better Than This’ – Kashmiris Not Amused by Limited Internet

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Common people and students in Srinagar feel that the administration has mocked them by restoring the 2G services with restrictions. — Image credit: Reuters

KASHMIR BLACKOUT

The Supreme Court order to restore the Internet in Jammu and Kashmir, now governed by the Centre through a lieutenant governor, has been implemented in a convoluted manner with no access to most sites

Arjumand Andrabi | Caravan Daily

SRINAGAR — While the 2G internet on postpaid mobile phones has been restored in 10 districts of Jammu division and two districts in Kashmir division — Kupwara and Bandipora – following a general order on January 10 by the Supreme Court, the common people and students here say major restrictions still continue with the 2G services.

“There is no point in restoring 2G services with such restrictions, we are not able to access anything we need. This is more or less the same as before. I think the ban was perhaps better. At least the issue was being raised, now it won’t be,” said Rehaan, a government servant.

Principal secretary to Jammu and Kashmir, Rohit Kansal, held a press conference in Jammu the other day, stating that the voice call and SMS services would be restored on prepaid mobiles across Kashmir, as also 2G internet services, in all 10 districts of Jammu division and two districts of Kashmir division. He said the 2G services would be restored partially with certain restrictions and the social media would still remain suspended. In Srinagar, Budgam, Baramullah, Ganderbal, Pulwama Kulgam and Anantnag, the internet connectivity would remain suspended, he said.

The UT administration has restored 2G but only for access to a set of 153 “white-listed websites, which include four email services, 15 banking websites, 38 education-related websites, three job platforms, 11 entertainment and sports websites, 13 websites for accessing government and other services and 20 travel websites. Interestingly, no news website is listed for access.

“We are not able to access emails, the documentation process etc happens at such a slow pace. Heavy transactions cannot be done. The Google home page is not opening; we cannot even access the sites which were normally accessible at this speed,” said Gowhar an IT professional of Bandipora.

The so-called white list of ‘permitted websites’ issued by the state administration after curbs on the Internet were relaxed.

The central government is providing pre and post-matric scholarship for students in Kashmir and the dates for getting registered have already been extended three times up to January 31. But, students are still struggling to get registered on the website due to a lack of internet connectivity.

“The students still have to contact someone outside the Valley or go to DC offices for applying online and for scholarships and other purposes. We don’t need the internet for accessing social media; our work is dependent on the internet. We would not get benefitted until the 4G internet service gets restored,” continued Gowhar.

“We cannot read anything or access any news website. What is the fun of restoring 2G Internet services with restrictions when we cannot access what we need?”

 

WHAT SUPREME COURT ORDERED

The decision of restoring 2G services came after Supreme Court ordered on January 10 the Jammu and Kashmir administration to review within a week all restrictions imposed on the Union Territory after the August 5 abrogation of Article 370. The court in its order has stressed that the freedom of speech and expression through the medium of the internet is an integral part of Article 19(1) (a) and accordingly any restriction on the same must be in accordance with Sectioin19(2) of the Constitution.

“We cannot read anything or access any news website online. What is the fun of restoring 2G services with restrictions when we cannot access what we need? When the government restored postpaid mobile services in Kashmir, my prepaid number was not working and I bought the postpaid SIM card at that time for a sum of Rs 1,000. How can we get benefitted now by this drama,” said Khalid Abas, a teacher.

After the restoration of 2G services, most people tried to connect to the internet but they were not able to. They thought that they needed to recharge their phones to get internet access. There seemed to be uncertainty among people due to all this. “I was very happy as I heard the news of 2G restoration as I had to send my reports. But when I tried to access my email id, I was not able to,” said Abrar Bhat, a journalist in Kupwara.

The Central Government’s ban on the Internet and mobile phones since August 5 was part of a heavy clampdown, including the introduction of measures like curfew, barbed wires and barricades on the roads, communication blackout and mass arrests and detentions.


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