On the evening of Friday last, the government came up with an announcement: “4G mobile internet services being restored in entire J&K.” It was least expected, let alone anticipated given the fact that the justifications by the administration to deny the services for the 18 months were too plausible.
The message to end the 550-day suspension came a few days later the filing of a petition by the Private Schools Association of Jammu and Kashmir before the Supreme Court which has held that the internet is an essential means to exercise the fundamental right of freedom of expression.
The ban started on August 5, 2019, when the government effectively nullified Article 370 of the Indian constitution to revoke Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and split it into two Union Territories after 70 years.
From the start of the abrupt security and communication clampdown on the night of 5 August 2019, the internet was altogether denied to a large population of Jammu and Kashmir for 153 days. On 25 January 2019, the government started 2G services in J&K and kept it as such for more than a year in all but two districts—Ganderbal and Udhampur where high-speed internet services were restored on 16 August last year, days after the government of India informed the Supreme Court that the special committee looking into the matter was considering allowing the facility on a trial basis in a couple of districts.
Nevertheless, the “revoking of the restrictions”, has been welcomed by millions in the erstwhile state as they were deprived of a basic facility without which daily life, including education and business, is no longer considered complete. While the decision has been welcomed, there appears to be a deep sense of grievance in the reactions over the protracted denial of the services.
The petulant sense of grievance especially among the student and business community is reasonable, to say the least. The student community faced the brunt for more than two academic sessions. The hiccups and time taken for streaming a video lecture amid covid-19 have been frustrating for them while businessmen have suffered for varied reasons.
While the restoration will bring back some welcome normalcy to people’s lives, it is only a step in a larger process. Many steps remain to be taken. While it is better late than never, people hope that there would be least measures like shutting down of the internet services in future.