Citing Geelani’s health, fake news, J-K govt defends 4G internet ban

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Srinagar: The J-K government has called the internet “as an enabler of rights and not a right in itself” during its justification in the Supreme Court as the restrictions on high-speed internet in Kashmir surpasses nine-months.

In the reply, the J-K government has vehemently justified the ban by including many submissions including cross-border militancy, fake news, Geelani’s health, 2010 and 2016 civilian uprisings, the number of deaths in Kashmir since 1990, COVID-19 response, government schools versus private schools, the giving of Azaans across Kashmir recently following a video from Pakistan, among others.

Earlier, three petitions in the apex court filed against the suspension of 4G internet services — including by J-K Private Schools Association (PSAJK), another by an organisation called Foundation of Media Professionals, and the third one by Advocate Soayib Qureshi.

In the joint response to these petitions, Principal Secretary of the J&K Home Department Shaleen Kabra gave a slew of reasons defending the ban on 4G internet that remains suspended since August 2019. In it, the government claims that the “right to access the internet is not a fundamental right.”

“…thus the type and breadth of access for exercising the right to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a) and/or to carry on any trade or business under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution of India (CoI) through the medium of internet can be curtailed,” reads one of the submissions made to the court by the J-K government.

“For instance, umpteen rumours relating to number of positive COVID-19 cases/deaths, creating chaos and panic; health related fake news of prominent people in Jammu & Kashmir like that of Chairman, All Party Hurriyat, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, in whose case a route plan was also mentioned guiding general public on how to reach Eidgah, Srinagar in the eventuality of his demise,” the reply added. “Shutdown call by JKLF on the eve of death anniversary of Maqbool Bhat and Afzal Guru; to observe Republic Day as black day… and very recently, religious preachers from Pakistan had urged people via social media to recite Azan in Masjids during midnight and on viewing this video, people across the valley recited Azan in different Masjids, which created panic and law and order situation.”

Referring to the recent surge in militancy incidents and encounters, the government has said that while the world is fighting a war against COVID-19, J-K is on a continuous war with militants “aided, abetted and encouraged from across the border.”

In the reply, the government has also claimed that the “current discourses of social media campaigns infer that Pak handles are aiming to incite violence amongst College and University students.”

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