A prominent Human rights group has called India’s communications blackout following the scrapping of special status of Jammu and Kashmir last year “collective punishment” and urged the international community to question New Delhi over what it called “digital apartheid.”
The Jammu-Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society in its 125-page report described “harms, costs and consequences of the digital siege in Jammu-Kashmir from August 2019” when New Delhi stripped the region of its statehood and the semiautonomy that gave its natives special rights over land ownership and jobs, Associated Press reported.
“The multi-faceted and targeted denial of digital rights is a systemic form of discrimination, digital repression and collective punishment of the region’s residents, particularly in light of India’s long history of political repression and atrocities,” the report titled “Kashmir’s Internet Siege” said.
Officials have argued such security measures were necessary to better integrate the region with India, foster greater economic development and to stop threats from “anti-national elements” and Pakistan.
Although some of the communications restrictions have been removed and the internet on fixed lines has been restored, mobile internet speeds in most of the region remain painstakingly slow.
“While the Government of India has succeeded in gagging the voices of people of Jammu and Kashmir with its longstanding communication blockade,” the report said, “it should not prevent the international community from speaking and calling out the Government of India for suppressing the fundamental rights of people.”