Why limit connectivity?

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At a time when governments throughout the world including in India are urging the people to work from their homes, Kashmir is one unique exception. Here the thumb rule seems that the people must stay home, but the government would not allow them conditions as would facilitate their working from such a safe space!

When Jammu and Kashmir’s special status was scrapped in August 2019, the justification put forth was that by doing so the Government of India has brought this land and its people at par with the rest of India. But today after nearly eight months of the decision, the government has not been able to ensure Kashmiri people’s parity with those living in other states and union territories. At least this has not happened in terms of telecommunications, and more specifically Internet connectivity. On this count, people of Jammu and Kashmir are unabatedly facing worst-ever discrimination.

Continued curbs on Internet here are devoid of any merit and logic and rationale today, but the authorities, for some unknown reasons, are refusing to heed countless appeals for a review of current impasse. Even as the measure has attracted lot of bad press, including open criticism from many western nations and even admonitions from the Supreme Court of India, and the rights bodies like Amnesty International, about the denial of Internet connectivity being a violation of peoples’ fundamental rights, the government has remained visibly opposed and resistant to any change in its stance.

But today the situation is different. At a time when COVID-19 is threatening the very existence of humankind, and has forced on the people world-over a secluded existence within the walled castles of their homes, Internet has become a sole window of hope. It is a vital tool for the people to maintain social contacts in virtual world when physical connections are discouraged for their potential and ability to aid and facilitate dangerous transmission of novel coronavirus. Internet connectivity is also the only aid for the health practitioners to keep themselves abreast with latest happenings – in terms of medical research about containment and treatment of the coronavirus infections, as well as effective preventive strategies that ordinary people are encouraged to educate themselves about, and adopt so as to keep the disease at bay, both for its physical dangers and its psycho-social impacts.

In today’s desperate times, the distinctions between the rich and the poor, developed and the backward, east and the west are seemingly vanishing and the coronavirus is proving to be a great leveler – threatening people of all makes and beliefs, colours and creeds, equally. Even God has shut His doors on everyone – with mosques and synagogues, churches and temples across the world remaining shut, alike; and perhaps also winking at the “believers” who otherwise remain daggers drawn on each-other’s throats, claiming them and themselves only as being the “chosen ones”. Today all these differences are gone. If the doors of Kaaba are closed, streets in Vatican are deserted too, people no longer place paper slips with written prayers to God in the cracks of the Western Wall in Jerusalem, temples across India have never been as desolate and isolated as are in these (ongoing) Navrataras….

But here, distinctions remain — in Jammu and Kashmir, and with its people. So while people in the rest of India and the world can remain connected to whosoever and whatsoever they want to link up with through the world wide web, here people are, as if, being told that they have long foregone this right some eight months back.  Is it justifiable?

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