It’s been missing for a month, when will the internet return to Kashmir Valley?
On August 5 various communication services were suspended in J&K. In the hours that followed Parliament passed the resolution for repeal of Article 370 of the Constitution alongside a bill to bifurcate the state into two Union Territories.
We are now in September and whatever the initial justification, it is increasingly untenable to continue the clampdown on communication services.
Sure, desi critics like Rahul Gandhi are thin on proof, which is difficult to get hold of from a digital vacuum. Criticism from Pakistan and China can be dismissed as hypocrisy. International criticism from those like US presidential contender Bernie Sanders can be dismissed as left-liberals pandering to their own vote base, which in his particular case includes Muslim migrants from many countries. Foreign media reports of human rights abuses over the last month can be dismissed as exaggerations funded by vested interests.
Ok fine. Arguments made, rebutted. But among the people currently behind the iron curtain in the Kashmir Valley, we do not know what ideas are circulating, and there is no forum for rebutting them either. With internet and mobile services suspended for a month, rumors rule.
For example Rahul Tripathi reports how a trader in Shopian made the startling claim that security forces had “beaten up seven and fractured their arms” in his village Pinjora. Naseer A Ganai reports a mother seen wailing in Srinagar, “What if they take away our girls tomorrow. What will we do?” Mahrukh Inayet reports the spread of a conspiracy theory that an Udta Punjab like drugs uptake by youngsters in the Valley is connected to a sinister plan to wipe out future generations of Kashmir.
From a strange and even cruel ivory tower, Governor Satya Pal Malik has declared, “Who uses phone and internet? It is of little use for us but is mostly exploited by terrorists and Pakistanis.” Actually so much of our lives have moved online now. Many Kashmiris may have missed the August 31 deadline for filing income tax returns this year. Many patients may be suffering because they cannot claim health insurance without the internet. Cutting communication would have also cut credit links vital for sustaining businesses. We will never be able to total the personal setbacks.
On the other hand, there are also emphatic reports that life is close to normal. It’s confusing. Are the insurgents, separatists, terrorists truly being set back or is the confusion working in their favor?
Nobody can quarrel with government’s stated goal of maintaining peace. But the longer it takes to restore communications completely, the more doubts grow about its ability to deliver this. Darkness is no friend of the human organism. Without the sun we become sickly not strong.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.