Black­out in ‘Dig­i­tal Age’

Pakistan Observer - - EDITORIALS & COMMENTS -

IN­TER­NET and com­mu­ni­ca­tion ser­vices black­out in Jammu and Kash­mir for three con­tin­u­ous days be­gin­ning on early this week sounds bizarre for the rea­son that peo­ple of the state are bereft of th­ese ser­vices while In­dian Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi is pro­mot­ing ‘Dig­i­tal In­dia’ mis­sion in the world. It is also iron­i­cal that peo­ple are kept out of loop of the mod­ern In­ter­net Ser­vices and com­mu­ni­ca­tion net­work that con­nects them with rest of the world in the 21st cen­tury when tall claims are made about In­dia mov­ing ahead on In­for­ma­tion Tech­nol­ogy high­way. Un­for­tu­nately ini­tially the In­ter­net Ser­vices were to be blocked for the state for about 24 hours only to be ex­tended up to 72 hours putting the ser­vices like ATMs, bank­ing op­er­a­tions, busi­ness trans­ac­tions and work­ing of the pri­vate cit­i­zens con­nected with the rest of the world through IT was to­tally dis­rupted.

This time, fear­ing trou­ble over the con­tro­versy sur­round­ing al­leged sac­ri­lege in one place of wor­ship or the other, the po­lice and law en­forc­ing agen­cies thought of noth­ing of else than putting a blan­ket black­out of In­ter­net Ser­vices and all other types of com­mu­ni­ca­tion ser­vices. This was a ridicu­lous at­tempt on the part of the law en­forc­ing agen­cies to keep peo­ple away from com­mu­ni­cat­ing with each other and stop the shar­ing of in­for­ma­tion and con­vey­ing of greet­ings dur­ing Ramzan. This time, the fes­tive sea­son is with­out com­mu­ni­ca­tion ser­vices can be any­body’s guess be­cause ma­jor­ity of the peo­ple could not share the joy on so­cial net­work­ing sites, Face­book or any other net­work. It is a sad state of af­fairs that in the event of any tragedy or fes­ti­val, In­ter­net Ser­vices and com­mu­ni­ca­tion net­work are the first ca­su­al­ties and peo­ple are kept in the dark about ev­ery­thing. In fact, the worst af­fected peo­ple due to black­out were the tourists vis­it­ing Jammu and Kash­mir from out­side the state and abroad find­ing it dif­fi­cult to con­nect with their fam­i­lies back home and re­fus­ing to be­lieve that this also hap­pens in a place in In­dia. It is a harsh fact that most of the north­ern states of In­dia in­clud­ing those in North East­ern Re­gion also face sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion at the drop of the hat. More­over, no ex­pla­na­tions are given for such ac­tion on the part of the state gov­ern­ment and its law en­forc­ing agency.

Apart from the al­i­bis of the state gov­ern­ment, the cen­tre has also jus­ti­fied putting a ban on In­ter­net Ser­vices not only in J&K but also North East­ern Re­gion states on the ar­gu­ment that it was nec­es­sary for main­te­nance of law and or­der sit­u­a­tion and peace. No­body has ex­plained why such a sit­u­a­tion has arisen and due to whose short­com­ings in a free and demo­cratic coun­try where free speech and free­dom of ex­pres­sion is be­com­ing cap­tive to the whim­si­cal be­hav­iour of the rulers of the day. It is ridicu­lous that such ser­vices are banned be­cause of the fear of mis­chief be­ing played by a hand­ful of right wing el­e­ments in J&K and else­where in the coun­try where they can­not be tamed and no law and or­der machin­ery ini­ti­ates any ac­tion against them. Since the right wing groups feel that some of the ac­tions in a so­ci­ety are against their sen­ti­ments so all the peo­ple in one par­tic­u­lar state should be pun­ished for no fault of theirs.

It is un­for­tu­nate that govern­ments of the day are sub­servient to the whims and fan­cies of the right wing groups, who want to in­dulge in moral polic­ing and would be set­ting rules for ev­ery game in­clud­ing the eating and cul­tural habits of the so­ci­ety. It is un­for­tu­nate that one par­tic­u­lar state is kept cap­tive to ban on com­mu­ni­ca­tion ser­vices at a time when Naren­dra Modi is pro­mot­ing ‘Dig­i­tal In­dia’ mis­sion that en­vis­ages cre­at­ing a net­work for ev­ery cit­i­zen and put the coun­try on the path of progress. If progress can be achieved for the coun­try by ex­clud­ing its own peo­ple from such fa­cil­i­ties, then fate of poor and un­der­priv­i­leged classes can be very well imag­ined. Tak­ing away such ser­vices amounts to clos­ing down the ra­tion shops if there are com­plaints that peo­ple go hun­gry be­cause they can cre­ate a law and or­der prob­lem by de­mand­ing food­grains from the gov­ern­ment. At last, this is no way to stop peo­ple from protest­ing against the wrong poli­cies and mis-gov­er­nance of the coali­tion gov­ern­ment in J&K. — Kash­mir Times

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