E-Curfew In Kashmir
By Mohammad Ashraf
19 August, 2015
(On every Indian Independence Day and Republic Day, Kashmiris have to face E-Curfew apart from the normal Curfew restricting physical movements!)
Kashmiris have become quite familiar and used to the word “Curfew”. The Cambridge dictionary defines “Curfew” as, “a rule by which everyone must stay at home between particular times, usually at night, especially during a war or period of political trouble”. Imposition of curfew has become a normal routine in Kashmir which as per dictionary definition seems to be at war or in continuous political trouble. Many variation of this virtually physical imprisonment of the citizens in their homes have been evolved over a period of time. One is the “Undeclared Curfew”. This is imposition of restrictions on the movement of people without formally declaring a curfew.
The more sophisticated nomenclature used for “Undeclared Curfew” is “Restrictions”! The authorities announce “Restrictions” for certain volatile area which in practice means imposition of “Curfew” without declaring it formally. Another derivative is “strict enforcement of section 144”! This section 144 is a law banning assembly of four or more persons to prevent any protests or demonstrations. Once the authorities announce strict enforcement of the restrictions under this law, it virtually amounts to “Curfew” as people are not allowed to move even in ones or twos.
From the peoples’ side too, a new addition has been made into the Cambridge dictionary. This is the word “Civil Curfew”! It means complete strike of all civilian establishments, transport and so on including total stoppage of movement of the common people on the roads. All these restrictions whether from the authorities or the popular leaders heading various movements are to restrict physical movement of people to prevent trouble or to register a protest?
However, over the recent few years, a new type of restriction is being regularly imposed. This is the restriction on electronic waves. One may call it the “E-Curfew”! On certain occasions such as the Independence Day (15th August) and Republic Day (26th January), all electronic waves are virtually imprisoned by the authorities. All mobile networks stop functioning and the internet is also blocked. The usual explanation is that the “anti-national elements” called “ANEs”in security jargon can utilise mobile signals to trigger remote explosive devices and also communicate with each other. Here, it may be mentioned that the security authorities are using most sophisticated electronic jamming devices at all important function venues and all the VVIPs have mobile jammers worth crores of rupees always in tow with their convoys. It appears that the security agencies have no faith in their sophisticated electronic jamming devices and as a safe bet, they impose total “E-Curfew”. However, no one bothers about the negative fallout of such mindless restrictions.
The most affected are the sick people requiring urgent medical advice or even evacuation to a hospital. With the massive introduction of mobile telephony, people have virtually forgotten about landlines which earlier used to be the only means of urgent communications. Apart from the health sector, the “E-Curfew” also drastically disrupts the “E-Commerce”! The most affected is the banking sector. The trade and commerce which is these days totally dependent on internet too gets drastically affected. Sometimes even an electronic blackout of just a few hours can cause a loss of huge amounts of money to people involved in businesses connected with stock exchanges and share markets. Incidentally, some of the Western Countries including the USA face more serious security threats from the most sophisticated operatives but they never impose “E-Curfew” as they probably have full faith in the protective devices and the men handling these. The same could be done here unless the devices have been purchased through a “Scam” which has become common place these days!
Mohammad Ashraf, I.A.S. (Retired), Former Director General Tourism, Jammu & Kashmir
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