This has paralysed the entire legal system here, says Jammu and Kashmir Bar Council president

Updated: Nov 17, 2019, 07:25 IST | Gaurav Sarkar | Mumbai

After the government of India abrogated Article 370 on August 5, the region has remained largely disconnected because of the Internet ban.

Kashmir under lockdown. Photo by Daanish Bin Nabi
Kashmir under lockdown. Photo by Daanish Bin Nabi

November 15 marked the 100-day anniversary of the abrogation of Article 370. Following the abrogation, the Government of India put Kashmir under lockdown, banned rallies, detained political leaders and social activists, cut off phone lines and imposed curfew. But cutting off the Internet was what truly disconnected the Kashmiris from the rest of the country and the world.

On November 13, a group of Kashmiri journalists held a peaceful protest at the Press Club in Srinagar against the Internet blockade. They held placards that read "100 days, no Internet". Daanish Bin Nabi, a freelance journalist working in the Valley said: "It's been particularly rough time for journalists. There is no broadband, fibre optic or mobile Internet. The authorities have restored leased lines in select tourist hotspots, hotels and government offices from November 5. But apart from that there's been a complete clampdown on Internet services in Jammu and Kashmir."

Another journalist told mid-day that the ones who've been the worst hit have been those working in the digital sections of local publishers. "They haven't been paid their salaries since August because they've had no work," the journalist said on condition of anonymity adding that local newspapers and news organisations have been paying their employees a half salary since August 5.

Bin Nabi added that in the beginning, reporters working for publications outside of J&K would send stories and pictures on pen drives with people travelling out of the state-turned-union-territory. "In mid-August, we were given an Internet connection at Hotel Sarovar in Sanwar area.

But there were only four computers and more than 200 journalists.

In October, the media centre was shifted to the Jammu and Kashmir Department of Information and Broadcasting in Srinagar.

All of us come here to file our stories and pictures. There are about 10-15 computers but no one can access social media properly."

Nabi(Left) Journalist Daanish Bin Nabi and Manzoor Ahmed, assistant professor

Manzoor Ahmed, an assistant professor at the Islamic University of Science and Technology in Pulawama (Centre for Media Relations), said: "It's unimaginable to work without the Internet. Both students and teachers need the Internet to do their research, study reference material and prepare for lectures."

It isn't just the journalists or the students who've been adversely affected by the Internet ban.

Take the case of Ahmed Owais, who runs an NGO called Koshish in Srinagar. "We work on child rights issues, emergency relief and rehabilitation. We lost a Rs 30 lakh grant because we missed the deadline to reply to them via email.

Now we'll have to wait till next August (since it's an annual grant)."

Advocate BS Salathia is a three-time president of the Jammu and Kashmir Bar Council. "We aren't able to download judgements or communicate with each other without the Internet. This has paralysed the entire legal system here. There may be certain regions in Kashmir where there are anti-national forces but we don't face that kind of problem in Jammu. We've not sided with Pakistan not have we ever raised any anti-national slogans.

And yet, our Internet services have been disconnected."

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