Ban on social media lifted in Kashmir, key voices still missing

Still no news from Omar Abdullah, Mehboooba Mufti or any other Kashmiri leaders

kashmir media ban

On Wednesday, access to social media was finally restored in Kashmir after 7 months. The move came after mounting international condemnation as well as ingenuity of Kashmiris in bypassing the restrictions using VPNs. However, two key voices are still missing; Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah.

Jammu & Kashmir Peoples Democratic Party President Mufti’s account is being handled by her daughter Iltaja, who posted two tweets saying, “Seems like J&K admin finally realised futility of ban on SM since Kashmiris circumvented it through VPNs. Simply became a cat & mouse chase where Kashmiris outwitted state apparatus i.e.Big Brother.” She added, “My mother last tweeted on 5th August post abrogation of Article 370. Today as I tweet for the first time from Kashmir post decriminalisation of social media, Im swept by saudade & painful nostalgia. Will we ever heal? When will this nightmare end?”



Mufti had been placed under detention and moved to different facilities ever since the abrogation of Article 370 on August 5, 2020. Similarly, former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah last few tweets on August 4 and 5 were a chilling precursor of things to come.



His last tweet on August 7 showcased a sliver of a sense of humour in face of imminent doom:



He is also in detention, and the Supreme Court is all set to hear his sister Sara Abdullah Pilot’s plea against his detention today. Sara had challenged Omar’s detention under the stringent Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, a move taken by the government just before his detention was to expire in February 2020. The government said Omar Abdullah posed an “imminent threat to public order”. A person can be held without trial for up to 2 years under the PSA.

On Monday an affidavit submitted by Srinagar District Magistrate to the Supreme Court said, “Omar Abdullah has been a very vocal critic of any possible abrogation of Article 370 prior to its abrogation in August 5, 2019, considering the very peculiar geopolitical position of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh and its geographical proximity with Pakistan, the concept of “public order” needs to be examined contextually.”

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta had submitted an affidavit saying, “The detenu (Omar Abdullah) has chosen not to file a representation before the Advisory Board. It is submitted that Omar Abdullah was and continues to be detained in conformity with the Public Safety Act and is kept in Hari Niwas (former palace of erstwhile king, located near Dal lake) which has been temporarily declared as subsidiary jail.”

The order to remove restrictions on social media and make access available on 2G internet was  issued by Principal Secretary, Home, Shaleen Kabra after assessing the overall security situation and maintenance of public order in Jammu and Kashmir. The order also said, “these services shall not be made available on pre-paid sim cards”. Also, for fixed-line internet, connectivity shall continue to be made available “with mac-binding at unlimited speeds”.

On January 10, a Supreme Court bench comprising Justices NV Ramana, Surya Kant and BR Gavai, delivered a noteworthy judgment in a case concerning the shutdown of communications in Kashmir. On the subject of temporary suspension of internet, the court said, “An order suspending internet services indefinitely is impermissible under the Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Service) Rules, 2017. Suspension can be utilized for temporary duration only.” It added, “In any case, the State/concerned authorities are directed to consider forthwith allowing government websites, localized/limited e­banking facilities, hospitals services and other essential   services, in those regions, wherein the internet services are not likely to be restored immediately.”



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