On 12 August 2020, the Internet Democracy Project along with SFLC.in and a coalition of non-profit organisations & civil society groups sent a joint statement urging the Jammu and Kashmir Government to restore high-speed internet access in the region along with the request to ensure stable and secure communication services in the Union Territory.
Shutting down the high-speed Internet has not only created a communication block for the residents of the state but also had a very drastic effect on their lives. Students were deprived of the education due to access issues caused by this blockage. People have lost livelihood opportunities and are also not able to access information necessary to contain the ongoing pandemic let alone being able to be in touch with their loved ones using the Internet.
The full text of the letter can be found on the SFLC.in website as well as below.
August 12, 2020
Shri Shaleen Kabra
Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir
Sub: Collective statement to urge Government of Jammu and Kashmir to restore High-speed internet.
Jammu and Kashmir has been facing unprecedented restrictions on communications since August 4, 2019. Communications have not been completely restored even after almost a year. These communication restrictions started with a complete blackout where landlines and mobile services were cut off. Over time landlines and calling service on mobiles were restored. Between January 2020 and March 2020, 2G internet was available for white-listed websites only. 2G connectivity was restored in March 2020. Different districts in the Union Territory have faced more than 40 complete internet shutdowns since 2G internet was restored in March 2020.
These communication blocks have caused immense damage to the citizens of the erstwhile state. Students have lost many hours of their education, people have lost their livelihoods, the media has been severely crippled, the economy has suffered immensely and businesses have collapsed in the absence of a stable internet connection. Moreover, people of the region have suffered significant emotional trauma because of the communication clampdown and the inability to reach out to loved ones.The inability to get timely information during the COVID-19 pandemic due to this network disruption has only added to the woes, particularly affecting health care workers who needed to keep updated with latest developments in the line of treatment. There have also been multiple petitions filed in the Supreme Court of India against this blockade and review committees set up, as a result, have been unresponsive to the ground reality.
Several special rapporteurs appointed by The United Nations Human Rights Council(UNHRC) issued a joint statement 22nd August 2019 in which they had stated that “A blackout is a form of collective punishment of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, without even a pretext of a precipitating offence.” The repeated instances of internet shutdowns and degradation of network services are causing immense harm to the people of Jammu and Kashmir. We urge the government of the Union Territory and associate government authorities to restore high-speed internet access in the region, We also request the government to ensure stable and secure communication services in the Union Territory.
Advocacy Initiative for Development (AID)
Association for Progressive Communications (APC)
Center for Media Research — Nepal (CMR-Nepal)
Center for Media Studies and Pacebuilding (CEMESP-Liberia)
Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF)
Free Expression Myanmar (FEM)(Myanmar Digital Rights Forum Partners)
Free Speech Collective
Indian Civil Liberties Union (ICLU)
International Federation of Journalists — Asia Pacific (IFJ-AP)
Internet Sans Frontieres (Internet Without Borders)
Internet democracy project (IDP)
Liberia Information Technology Student Union
L’Association Francophone pour les Droits de l’Homme
Media Institute of Southern Africa-Zimbabwe (MISA-Zimbabwe)
Myanmar Centre for Responsible Business (MCRB)(Myanmar Digital Rights Forum Partners)
Myanmar ICT for Development Organization(MIDO)(Myanmar Digital Rights Forum Partners)
Phadeeyar(Myanmar Digital Rights Forum Partners)
Point of View (POV)
SFLC.in (Software Freedom Law Center, India)
Swathanthra Malayalam Computing
UBUNTEAM (Côte d’Ivoire)UBUNTEAM(MALI)
VE sin Filtro
Chairman DCC & Secretary(T)
Minister of Home Affairs