India extends high-speed internet ban in Kashmir

Government in the disputed region says restrictions ‘absolutely necessary in the interest of Indian sovereignty’.

In this Jan. 30, 2020, photo, a Kashmiri man browses the internet on his mobile phone outside a shop in Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir. Six months after India stripped restive Kashmir of its semi
High-speed internet was cut off in August last year, when India revoked Kashmir's semi-autonomous status [File: Dar Yasin/AP]

The government in Indian-administered Kashmir has extended its ban on high-speed internet in 18 of 20 districts of the disputed region until November 12.

In an order issued on Wednesday evening, the administration in the federal territory said the restrictions on high-speed internet were “felt absolutely necessary in the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India”.

High-speed internet in the Himalayan region had been cut off since last August, when India revoked the semi-autonomous status of the Jammu and Kashmir state, divided it into two federally ruled territories and imposed a complete lockdown and communications blackout.

The order said security agencies “apprehended that anti-national elements might misuse” high-speed connections “for carrying out activities inimical to the public order besides persuading the youths to join militancy”.

Although some of the communications restrictions have been removed and the internet on fixed lines restored, mobile internet speed in most of the region remains painstakingly slow.

Digital rights activists have consistently denounced the internet restrictions, with some calling them “far worse censorship than anywhere in the world”.

In August, the Jammu-Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), a prominent rights group in Indian-administered Kashmir, called the communications blackout a “collective punishment” against the Kashmiris and urged the international community to question New Delhi over the “digital apartheid”.

Several human rights groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have repeatedly urged India to restore full internet access in the disputed region, with the calls gaining steam amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The conflict in Indian-administered Kashmir has existed since the late 1940s when India and Pakistan won independence from the British rule and began fighting over rival claims to the Muslim-majority territory.

The two rivals, who claim the Kashmir territory in full but administer parts of it, have fought two of their three wars over the Himalayan region.

Source: News Agencies