High-speed internet continues to elude J&K for 515 days

As 2020 comes to an end, high-speed internet continues to elude Jammu and Kashmir for 515 days

High-speed internet in the violence-hit region had been cut off since 5 August 2019

Representative image. Credit: iStock photo.

As the year 2020 comes to an end, high-speed internet continues to remain blocked in 18 of 20 districts in Jammu and Kashmir for the last 515 days, hugely affecting the education, health and business in the Valley.

High-speed internet in the violence-hit region had been cut off since 5 August 2019, when the Center revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370, divided it into two union territories and imposed a complete lockdown and communications blackout.

Although some of the communications' restrictions have been removed and high-speed internet on fixed lines restored, mobile internet speed in most of the region remains painstakingly slow.

Closure of educational institutions since 5 August 2019, first due security lockdown imposed by the government and later due to the spread of Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020, have gravely impaired education and added to the trauma of students in Kashmir valley.

Lakhs of students have been deprived of the high speed internet facility which has left them in mental agony. While in other states the students are mostly dependent on the online system of education during the pandemic lockdown, in J&K the authorities are continuing curbs on the high speed internet on “security concerns.”

In the latest order to continue the ban on high speed internet, the UT administration had stated that participation of political parties and a large-scale voter turnout in the recently held district development council elections had not gone down well with the “elements inimical to public peace and tranquility, as apparent from the multiple incidents of hurling of grenades by terrorists since the conclusion of the election process, targeting civilians/police personnel/security forces and the encounter with security forces.”

“The internet speed shall be continued to be restricted to 2G, except the districts of Ganderbal and Udhampur, till 8 January 2021,” it added.

In a similar order earlier, the UT government also justified the ban by saying that continuous attempts were being made to radicalise the youth through multiple ways, especially through videos using social media, “which rely on high speed internet for easy dissemination of such material.”

Suspending internet services in Kashmir has been common since the last few years. After every gunfight between militants and security forces, the government blocks the internet as a “precautionary measure.”

In 2016, following the unrest after Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani was killed by the security forces, mobile internet services were suspended for 133 days from July 8 onwards that year.

Internet bans in Kashmir have not only proved calamitous for the economy, crushing innovation in the region and leading to joblessness, but has also impacted patient care in times of Covid-19 pandemic.