Kashmir’s “Internet Curtain”!
By Mohammad Ashraf
29 September, 2015
Blocking internet, suspending mobile services, confining people to their homes remind one about the infamous “Iron Curtain” of the former USSR
Kashmir’s popular movement for freedom started in 1931. In 1938, the movement which was started for getting the basic rights in an autocratic set up by the Muslims was converted into a nationalist movement. The manifesto for the movement which was written by staunch communists B.P.L and Fredda Bedi reflected many similarities of the Russian Revolution. The Red Flag, the Plough representing the peasantry replicating the Sickle and Hammer of the Russian workers, the naming of the popular spot for public meetings as the Red Square and so on. In 1947 the National Conference headed by Sheikh Abdullah after taking over the reins of the Government introduced other appendages of the revolution including an intelligence service akin to the notorious KGB with its most dreaded head, Beria! Not only were people differing with the government view point imprisoned and tortured but were also banished from Kashmir across the ceasefire line.
After the dethroning and arrest of Sheikh Abdullah, Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad perfected the clandestine apparatuses. His “Peace Brigade” and notorious strongmen “Gogaas” made the life of the people miserable. Everything was copied from the systems prevalent in the post revolution USSR. Indian Government used the local agencies to propagate their agenda. Gradually, most of the Central Agencies established their presence in the state and spread a wide network. They mostly recruited Kashmiri Pandits who were considered very loyal and dependable to the Indian narrative. However, their mass migration in 1990 rendered the agencies virtually blind. Gary Saxena, former RAW Chief as the Governor of the state rebuilt the network of informers including the groups of renegade militants. On the pattern of Russia Kashmir too had its “Red Guards” and the “White Guards”!
The turmoil of nineties completely changed the security scenario. The security forces were conferred extra-ordinary powers and immunity under the Disturbed Areas Act and the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. These Acts virtually took away the basic right to life of a Kashmiri as guaranteed under the constitution. Security personnel could kill any Kashmiri on the mere suspicion of being an anti-national element! They could destroy any structure, dwelling or a house on the mere suspicion of a hide-out of anti-national elements. There have been alleged disappearances, fake encounters and even mass graves have been discovered. However, all these actions of the security forces cannot be adjudicated in any court of law. Usually, such powers are exercised by security forces during a war. Even during a war they are subject to Geneva Convention. But all the actions of the security forces in Kashmir allegedly cannot be covered under Geneva Convention as there is no formal declaration of war. The security forces claim to be fighting a proxy war!
The very subtle “Iron Curtain” set up by Delhi could hide all these extra-judicial actions. Nothing came out from behind the Kashmir’s “Iron Curtain”. However, the times changed. We had the information revolution and the internet became the information highway. Nothing could be hidden now. Information travels so fast that people in every part of the world know about all happenings as these take place. Even happenings can be watched live worldwide as these take place through various social networks. World is now becoming an open book readable everywhere instantaneously! The only alternative with totalitarian governments is to block the information highway, the Internet! Thus they put an “Internet Curtain” over Kashmir during the most revered festival of Eid. The usual explanation would be that the step has been taken to maintain the “Law and Order”! Which Law, which Order? After showing the red rag to the bull they are claiming to control its actions by throwing a net around it.If law and order is to be maintained, government can use the vast security apparatus they have at their disposal. They have been doing it often. Curtailing internet is no solution. Dr. Goebbels, George Orwell and Beria must be turning in their graves on seeing the finesse with which the Indian agencies operate in Kashmir!
Apart from general inconvenience and disconnection of people, the “Internet Curtain” must have caused appreciable economic loss also. It would be a good exercise to calculate the losses suffered due to prolonged closure of internet services.Incidentally,India claims to be the largest secular democracy of the world. Secularism has long been buried and now the democracy too is in its last throes. The Hindutva Trident is piercing its heart everywhere. Right to life has been taken away. Freedom of expression has been massacred. After doing all this India is lobbying strongly to get elected as a permanent member of the UN Security Council with veto powers. Can there be anything more hypocritical than that! If such a thing happens, Kashmir may prove to be India’s nemesis!
Mohammad Ashraf, I.A.S. (Retired), Former Director General Tourism, Jammu & Kashmir
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