End of Communication Blockade in Kashmir Makes Way for the Worse

The Subtle Violation of Human Rights

Kashmir sprang to life after phone connections were restored last month. Now in another move that looks to normalize the conditions, the government of India has restored the Internet connection in Kashmir. However, it came tethered with a condition under which the Internet service providers are required to give the government of India a signed bond stating that the Internet usage will be for “business purposes” only. The pre-requisite implies that the provider will have to share all the “contents” and “infrastructure” of the Internet, whenever required by “security agencies”.

The move struck more as a state surveillance measure, suppressing freedom of speech and expression in the world’s largest democracy, than the end of a communication blockade that has been contested by human rights advocacy groups around the world for months now.

As reported, the bond consists of six points, including that ‘no encrypted file containing any sort of videos or photos will be uploaded’. The other data points state, “for the allowed IP, there will be no Social Networking, Proxies, VPN’s and Wi-Fi” and “that all the USB ports will be disabled on the network”. Pointers strongly indicate that sharing personal views on social media platforms might spell trouble for Kashmiris. Conversely, if a benefit has to be drawn from, it can only be that the India valley won’t remain under a complete clampdown anymore.

Meanwhile, if a user decides to go over bound and use the Internet for cross purposes, the companies will have to bear the consequences.

Back in August, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), revoked Article 370, stripping Kashmir off its special status. A move that has since seen outrage and bloodshed in the region. Some reports have also held the Indian Army accountable for the chaos and forced attacks on peaceful protestors.

It is justifiable to say that India wants Kashmir to grow as other states or say two separate union territories now, but what also needs to be kept in mind is the peace prospects and value of human rights that have taken a backseat in the process.

“The process of restoration of internet services has been started from the government departments followed by the hospitality sector,” sources said.

“Whoever was allowed to use these services was asked to sign a bond taking responsibility that there will be no misuse of the facility. Some of the connections of bureaucrats have also been restored,” the sources added.

The other side of the story that has been ignored with the partial usage of Internet is why does it remain restricted, when the whole of India can use the service as they like. As discussed already, the security concerns are prime, but for the Indian government, it is also important to give Kashmir some sort of autonomy in business operations, which remains important for them to earn a livelihood.

However, owners of travel businesses are still not satisfied and stated, they were ready to sign up even with the restrictions, because it would at least help them send tour itineraries and financial transactions, while they can’t communicate with their clients.

Looking by the standards, Kashmir stands on a fragile line of conflict, a line that offers hope on one side, while envisions violence as the way out on the other. It is impossible to judge how the Internet connections in Kashmir can help people settle down or reboot their lives, but if it does, what more could have the Indian government asked for in such frail times.

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