Kerala HC says net a Simple straight while Kashmir stares at digital darkness
In reality, devoting its verdict on a request filed by a Kozhikode school student, the court declared that the right to access net is part of the Right to Education under the Constitution.
Unfortunately, Kerala is a good 2,500 kms from J&K that is presently under a fairly extended lockdown for more than two months. The internet and communication blackout haven’t only hit students hard but additionally impacted all aspects of life as August 4, a day before the central government unilaterally stripped off the state of its semi-autonomous standing and bifurcated it in to 2 Union Territories.
But how can internet smartphones and services be a key enabler of basic rights? From liberty of speech and expression into e-governance, e-commerce and facilitation of crisis services, the web is essential. Come to J&K and this may become abundantly clear.
Pharmacists in Kashmir can not restock drugs. The e-curfew has directly hit even the Centre’s flagship wellness plan, Ayushman Bharat, at the Valley. In the lack of online facility, the Golden Card holders can’t upload the relevant documents online to avail benefit under the health strategy.
Voices from inside the country say it all. “Dear client,” reads the home page of a website run by Kashmir Box, an start-up that buys traditional handicrafts like pashmina shawls and pottery from local artisans and sells them online,”As you must be aware by now, Jammu & Kashmir is going through a tricky period. All communication such as mobile, phone, the internet was barred because the 5th of August 2019 and people motion is restricted.”
We are helpless in this situation. But we’d like to guarantee you that the orders received will be processed after the situation gets better. Presently, we’re not going to be able to answer to any question or give you any sort of advice as our systems are inoperable. All issues would be taken care of when internet is revived from the Valley,” it adds before pleading,”Keep us in your mind.”
A similar notice put up from the Kashmir Online Store on its own website reads:”we can not process any new or old order.we would like you to understand our situation.”
Besides online businesses, net stoppage has badly hit money flow in the Valley as ATMs and e-commerce payment services-which rely on web for each transaction-remain closed.
The internet blackout has fully paralysed the Kashmiri media. The digital press in the Valley looks dead or appears to be in hibernation.
Questioning the transfer, many guests and tourist operators have been wondering regarding who would love to see Kashmir amid a communication blockade.
Authentic, Jammu and Kashmir isn’t unfamiliar with the current situation. As stated by the Delhi-based Software Freedom Law Centre (SFLC) – a legal services organisation, which tracks incidents of web shutdowns in the nation – the world wide web was obstructed in parts of J&K as much as 54 times this year.
The Kashmir Valley observed the longest internet blackout in the nation at 2016 following angry protests over the killing of Hizbul militant Burhan Wani about July 8 of that year. At that time, while cellular internet services on post-paid mobile numbers were restored on November 19, cellular internet services for prepaid users were resumed only in January 2017.
“While discerning bans on net access – which means accessibility to favorite communication and social media platforms like WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube – have been imposed through regulation and order situations in the past, blanket internet shutdowns are greatly evidenced by the State since selective bans are relatively easy to circumvent using workarounds such as Virtual Private Networks and proxy servers,” according to’Living in Digital Darkness-a handbook on Web Shutdowns in India’ released by SFLC.
According to the continuing online blackout in Kashmir, the executive manager of SFLC, Sundar Krishnan, stated,”We have seen such a clampdown for the first time. It is unprecedented. It has turned people into uncertainty and a fear situation. It’s bound to require a gigantic social and economic toll.”
It has to be determined as to what would be the goals of communications blackout and if those objectives were fulfilled or not, he emphasized.
Asserting that”net is a part and parcel of day to day life,” Krishnan mentioned,”On the one hand we speak about Digital India and connecting people and about the flip side, we closed down internet access. Despite the worst scenarios, if at all internet shutdown needs to be relegated to, even due process of law has to be followed apart from proportionality and necessity. Otherwise, internet shutdown shouldn’t be resorted to at all”
Paradoxically , the Jammu and Kashmir authorities rolled-out an e-procurement policy amid the ongoing internet shutdown on September 24, directing all the departments to prepare annual procurement plan and upload it on their various websites before January next year.
Seeking immediate relaxation of constraints on the internet and telecommunication services and about the movement of media persons, Anuradha Bhasin, the Jammu-based executive director of Kashmir Times, had approached the Supreme Court on August 10.
The best court on October 1 allowed the government 28 days’ period to answer each of petitions demanding the government’s Article 370 move and one week to the petitioners to record their responses following the government’s answer. The petitions will again be heard on November 14.