Quetta, Internet Policy Observatory Pakistan (iPOP) and coalition of digital rights groups have condemned the Indian government and demanded to immediately restore network access in occupied Jammu and Kashmir. The entire region has been subjected to a total telecommunications blackout. This is the 51st time in 2019 that access to internet, declared a basic human right by the United Nations, has been suspended here, according to cyber security and internet governance expert Arzak Khan. Last year, there were 65 shutdowns, and 176 over the past eight years, including a six-month ban in 2016.
On Sunday evening, the Indian government cut telecommunication lines in the region, leaving Kashmiris without mobile phone or fixed line communication services. Sources have also informed that families have not been able to reach their friends and family on the phone in Kashmir Valley. The current escalation in tensions shows critical telecommunications infrastructure is to people’s everyday lives said Arzak Khan. The shutdown is grinding the day to day lives of citizens to a halt and causing potentially life threatening isolation. The intentional blockage of access to the internet and especially social media platforms is to disrupt communications and curtail citizens’ access to information in order to limit what the citizens can see, do, or communicate.
The United Nations Human Rights Council has passed a resolution for the “promotion, protection, and enjoyment of human rights on the internet” which condemns any country that intentionally disrupts the internet access of its citizens. Indian government is guilty of violating universal declaration of human rights in the Jammu and Kashmir region.
Internet Policy Observatory Pakistan has also urged the United Nations to condemn this shutdown and draconian method of controlling citizen’s access. Given that the Internet has become an indispensable tool for realizing a range of human rights, combating inequality, and accelerating development and human progress, ensuring universal access to the Internet should be a priority for all countries.
For everyday Kashmiris, the telecommunications blackout is having a profound effect on their ability to do business and provide basic services. Loss of access could also mean an immediate threat to lives and livelihoods of millions of people.