Kashmir is suffering one of the worst communication lockdown in its history. Post the killing of Hizbul-Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, his two associates on July 8 followed by over 44 more civilian killings in ongoing protests across Kashmir a virtual communication lockdown has been imposed in entire Kashmir.
Internet, cable and cellular services are also snapped in all parts of the valley while the officials also gagged the publication of newspapers to contain the protests.
While the authorities imposed the communication breakdown in south Kashmir initially which was an epicentre of ongoing crisis, it was later extended to other parts of valley.
The ongoing harsh restrictions imposed in valley by the present regime led by Mehbooba Mufti could best be related to the emergency imposed in India by the then prime minister Indra Gandhi in 1975.
As the Kashmir was already under virtual breakdown since July 9 it worsened further when policemen on July 15 midnight seized the plates of Greater Kashmir offset and more than 50,000 printed copies of Kashmir Uzma, Urdu Daily and closed down the GK printing press.
Worst memories are being revisited, in 2008 and 2010 unrest, valley based newspapers were not allowed to be published by placing harsh restrictions on their movement. The newspapers were also seized in these unrests and not allowed to be circulated and media persons were not issued curfew passes. Number of journalists who were discharging their duties were beaten by the forces.
In the past unrests, the successive governments also snapped the cellular communication and restricted SMS services besides internet facility and Cable TV, but Mehbooba extended restrictions further after imposing the ban on newspapers, broadband and BSNL post paid services announced by the governments official spokesman, and education minister Naem Akther. Although the political advisor of Chief Minister, Amtiabh Matoo later denied the Chief ministers role in banning the press but on ground the decision is being considered the toughest ever from her predecessor, Omar Abdullah as Chief Minister.
People are finding difficult to cope up with the communication gag as this is unprecedented in nature.
Owais Ahmad, a youngster states “We do not know what is happening to the society around us, totally cut from the world and it looks Stone Age is back in Kashmir. The lack of internet connectivity has also kept us aloof from our official activity as online sources are backbone of current working areas.”
“This communication breakdown imposed on us definitely looks to be among the worst we have experienced.” He adds
From polity to analyst all are aghast over this communication blockade in Kashmir.
Hurriyat (M) Chairman Mirwaiz Molvi Mohammad Umer Farooq tweeted – “After caging & gagging people, Now crackdown on media, Newspapers seized by police, TV cable network asked 2shut down #MediaCrackdown #Kashmir.”
Commenting on the situation Mushtaq ul Haq Ahmad Sikander, political analysts states – “We have been retrograded to ancient times, with the communication clampdown. The state wants to cover it’s shame of killing, maiming and injuring innocents by snapping all means of communication. But it will have a blowback and will infuse more spirit to resistance against India and deepen the alienation among Kashmiris. This is the worst form of state terrorism of violating the fundamental rights of citizens. The tragedy is that we are not even aware about what is happening within our districts.”
Mushtaq feels that in every unrest it is the information sources at receiving end.” It has been seen in every minor and major unrest that the curfew passes of media professionals are torn into pieces and, if this is not enough the men in uniform are resorting to senseless violence against journalists, who are performing their professional duties thus the fourth pillar of democracy, is always under threat.”
Experts also opine that any little by little attempt to recognize sites being used to organise protests or beam video to the outside world will inevitably lead to a cat and mouse game between the authorities and protesters, who will be able to stay one step ahead.
On the other hand, in the 2016 unrest it is being largely believed that the present Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has gone way ahead in gagging and censoring media as even broadband, cable TV and almost all cellular networks have been barred. Even the mainstream polity feels that it is the worst communication gag that Kashmir is witnessing.
“I learnt from my mistakes, ensured they weren’t repeated again. @MehboobaMufti has not only repeated them but multiplied them many times,” former Chief Minister Omar wrote on micro- blogging website Twitter.
Infact, the present dispensation at helm of affairs has had a rough start with reference to all important communication freedom aspect and has lead the way with weird decisions.
Earlier after the alleged molestation case in Kupwara in April this year which resulted five civilian killings and massive unrests in parts of valley, inexplicably, the government issued the directions to get all the Whatsup groups registered disseminating information and news.
A circular issued by the Kashmir Divisional Commissioner, Dr Asgar Hassan Samoon, instructed users to first apply for a license to start WhatsApp news group.
In the history of social networking and communication, Kashmir attained the dubious distinction of being the first place on planet were netizens are asked to register the Whatsapp groups.
Online world is also showing rage against the grim situation. All the humanity voices are expressing deep anguish over the sorry state of affairs in valley. Sagar Kaul, eminent journalist wrote on facebook- “Day 8 – Curfew in many areas, shutdown in entire valley. 43 dead, more than 2500 injured, mobile services shut, satellite news channels blocked, no internet except for BSNL and choking the supply of water and electricity in some places. How is this going to fix the situation on ground now? The ones who were angry will remain angry, the ones who just hated you are angry with you now and the ones who believed in you are against you. So for whom is this all being done? For whom is this situation being brought under control? Right from the start of these protest people knew where we are heading and that’s how predictive this situation was and yet there was a complete failure on your part.
Just a small reminder, in this entire population of the valley at this moment apart from the people who already have suffered and are admitted in different hospitals across the valley, there would be hundreds of sick children in need of medication or even simple doctors check up. There would be people trying to get that one medicine that keeps them alive. There would be pregnant ladies about to deliver without having any way of reaching the hospital.
May be in coming days, weeks or months there would be ‘normalcy’ back on the roads, but no one will forget and that’s what you need to remember.”
Pertinently, many are surprised that amidst loft talks of Digital India campaign, a harsh Internet Blackout has left Kashmir in the dark.
(This story is copy right of The Legitimate)
2015 Kashmir Despatch