Despite the recent Supreme Court of India’s notice to Raj Bhavan, the union territory’s administration has once again extended 4G internet ban in J&K. Besides drawing a sharp and scathing social media response, the high-speed internet blockade has equally distressed Kashmir’s Covid-19 forefront fighters.

Jyotsna Bharti

On the evening of April 15, as a government review committee sat to decide the fate of the high-speed internet in Jammu and Kashmir, Dr. Murtaza became hopeful in his hospital chamber.

The 2G internet had played a big spoiler in his efforts to get online interactions with overseas experts and download research matter and guidelines on the Covid-19 crisis.

However, the evening of April 15 looked promising for this PPE-donning Covid-19 warrior in Kashmir.

And given how Supreme Court of India had recently served a notice to the union territory government about the high-speed internet in the region further assured him of its full restoration.

But to his chagrin, and that of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, many of whom took to social media to accuse New Delhi of being ‘insensitive during the global health crisis’, the young doctor had to make uneasy peace with the status quo, once again.

That evening, instead of long-awaited high-speed internet, came another date of the review: April 27.

“Problem is,” Dr. Murtaza said, “they’ve made 4G internet a repeated casualty of security situation in Kashmir, when it’s a basic human right for all of us.”

The doctor unwittingly invoked the Indian apex court’s recent ruling wherein it termed the internet as the “fundamental right” for every citizen.

“But in Kashmir,” the doctor continued, “the internet remains caught between the wishes and whims of Babus, who’re bent to administer Kashmir through repeated internet gags. They should understand that such iron curtain move to manage Kashmir and its inherent problems won’t help.”

While extending the 4G ban in J&K till April 27, Principal Secretary to the government, Shaleen Kabra cited the recent Sopore militant funeral and the Keran gunfight as some of the grounds for maintaining the 4G blockade in his fresh review order.

“The ban justification is totally insensitive,” Dr. Murtaza continued.

“We’re in the middle of a pernicious pandemic, for God’s sake! And to tackle it, we need the 4G internet facility. The doctors leading the pandemic fight back have to regularly update themselves with the global breakthroughs in the Covid-19 crisis. Thing is, we’re facing a humanitarian crisis today, and this government is only escalating it by denying us the much-needed high-speed internet.”

The anger is prevalent, so is the anxiety.

However, at a time when government has debarred medics from talking to media, not many are ‘minding the mess’, as they believe they’ve a bigger task at hand.

“We’ve been saying this from day one that 4G matters the most during this health crisis,” said Dr. Shabam, another Covid-19 warrior from Kashmir. “But the administration seems to have some other plans.”

This was the time, the lady doctor said, when the medical body could’ve actually started the intensive online interactions for creating more awareness in the locked down community.

“A strong 4G-driven doctor campaign could’ve also spared the administration from creating those concrete barriers in red zones. We need to change minds, and not our main roads. While bureaucratic hurdles can’t be the answer to this crisis, the full-scale internet-driven awareness can surely create a difference during this crisis hour.”

Perhaps sensing the same surging crisis, Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently announced the extension of national lockdown till May 3.
But while people across India are fighting a pure pandemic lockdown, Kashmiris are grappling with pandemic as well as partial internet.

Besides being an eye to the emergency medical force, a fast internet connection is need of the hour for accessing the crucial guidelines on Covid-19 from the globe.

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