Episode
February 3, 2020

What is the human cost of Kashmir's internet blackout?

A nearly six-month ban has had personally and economically devastating effects for Indian-administered Kashmir's seven million residents.
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On Monday, Februrary 3, 2020 at 19:30 GMT:
Internet service is finally trickling back into Indian-administered Kashmir, after an agonizing 160-day communications blackout.  The ban followed India’s controversial decision last August to revoke the region’s semi-autonomous status.

Officials insist the blackout is needed to prevent unrest, but India’s Supreme Court disagrees. It recently ruled that an indefinite suspension is "impermissible” under the constitution. Thus far, some 300 websites have been “whitelisted” for use in Kashmir. However, only frustratingly slow 2G internet is available, which is incompatible with most modern websites. Additionally, social media platforms including Facebook and WhatsApp remain banned.

The effects of the shutdown have been personally and economically devastating for Kashmir’s seven million residents. Many have lost contact with relatives outside of the state, and businesses across the region have shut down due to connectivity issues.

The blackout has also made it easier for tens of thousands of soldiers deployed by India last summer to operate with impunity in the Muslim-majority region. Prominent politicians remain detained and allegations of torture abound.

Kashmir's internet shutdown is considered to be the longest ever for a democracy. But India is no stranger to the practice. It holds the dubious title of internet shutdown capital of the world, after cutting online services in various parts of the country a record 106 times last year.

In this episode we ask, what is the human cost of Kashmir's internet blackout?

 

On this episode of The Stream, we speak with:

 

Akriti Bopanna, @Vidhi_India
Research fellow at the Vidhi Centre For Legal Policy
vidhilegalpolicy.in

 

Anuradha Bhasin, @AnuradhaBhasin_
Executive editor at Kashmir Times
kashmirtimes.com

 

Ather Zia, @aziakashmir
Political anthropologist and poet
unco.edu


Read more:
India supreme court orders review of Kashmir internet shutdown - The Guardian
2G link offers patchy connectivity in Kashmir - The Hindu
Indian court: Kashmir indefinite internet shutdown illegal - DW

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