Sunday, Sep 25, 2022

On Polling Day, Govt Snaps Even 2G Internet Services In South Kashmir

Internet service stopped over fears of misuse, says official

Villagers stand in a queue to cast their votes for the fourth phase of District Development Council (DDC) elections, at Bain Bajalta on the outskirts in Jammu. PTI photo

The government today shut down 2G internet services in South Kashmir during the fourth phase of polling of the District Development Council elections.

Anantnag deputy commissioner K.K. Sidha told Outlook that the government had valid reasons to shut down the Net. However, he refused to divulge the “valid reasons.”

Senior officials in Shopian district said the Internet was snapped as precautionary measures due to the polling in some areas in the district. A senior official said the government took this step after due consultation process. The Internet was shut down in Pulwama district also early on Monday.

The Jammu and Kashmir administration has ordered continuance of 2G mobile data services citing apprehension about misuse of high-speed Internet. The government has cited the district development council polls as an example saying that there are apprehensions of misuse of high speed Internet to disrupt the district development council and panchayat polls.

However, in the south Kashmir districts even this service was snapped early Monday morning creating problems for students and people. “I got a lot of calls in the morning from different people as the sudden snapping of 2G services created panic leading to lot speculations,” said a local journalist.

“We have already have 2G slow speed Internet and irony is they don’t even allow this facility to run normal course as well,” said Congress J&K president Ghulam Ahmad Mir. Mir said even if at all internet was snapped for the elections, political parties should have been at least informed about the reasons. “Steps like snapping the Internet is taking away basic rights from people. The government should have facilitated the election process by continuing Internet services instead of snaps such services,” he added. “I fail to understand why they do it,” he said.

Already there is resentment among students across Jammu and Kashmir over 2G services with student alleging that online classes on the slow speed internet has become a joke. However, frequent disruption in the slow speed internet services is complicating issues further.

Early this year, the Jammu and Kashmir government invoked “very peculiar geo-political position of Jammu & Kashmir and its geographical proximity with Pakistan” in the Supreme Court as one of the arguments not to restore high speed internet in Jammu and Kashmir. The government also quoted professor of law and public policy, Pepperdine University, Gregory S. McNeal that “terrorist organisations have also begun to employ websites as a form of information warfare” in its defence. It had also said the right to access the internet is not a fundamental right.

On August 4, 2019, a day before the BJP government revoked Article 370 of the Constitution and bifurcated Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories, the government imposed a communication blockade. Gradually the government restored communication but internet service was confined to 2G low speed connectivity only.