Blackout in ‘Digital Age’
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