Thursday, April 2, 2020

Indian Supreme Court orders review of Internet restrictions in Kashmir

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More than five months after the coup in Kashmir, the Supreme Court has just issued a harsh call to order on Narendra Modi. The judges ruled on Friday (January 10) that the Internet removal – the longest ever recorded in the country – imposed since August 5, 2019 should be reviewed. They point out that a suspension "Indefinite" constitutes a violation of the rules on telecommunications and freedom of expression. The administration must immediately restore the Internet to essential services, including hospitals, banks and government websites. Jammu and Kashmir authorities have one week to review all restraining orders.

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The Supreme Court, seized in particular by Ghulam Nabi Azad, leader of the Congress Party, and by Anuradha Bhassin, editor of the Kashmir Times, considers that the internet shutdown has had an impact on press freedom, which is part of freedom of speech and expression. They argued that the restrictions paralyzed the lives of 7 million people and that sectors such as education, health care, the economy, agriculture and tourism were affected. It is a snub to the government which keeps claiming that the situation in Kashmir is " completely normal ", while the population still lives confined, under high military surveillance, and the foreign press is completely forbidden access.

Diplomatic delegation

On August 5, the government had brutally revoked article 370 of the Constitution, on the autonomy of this 80% Muslim region, cut the territory in half, suppressed all means of communication and arrested most of the leaders , yet democratically elected. They are still in prison or under house arrest. The phones have been restored, but the Internet remains suspended. The abolition of Kashmir's special status was accompanied by harsh repression.

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The decision of India’s highest court comes as a diplomatic delegation from 15 countries (including the United States, South Korea, Nigeria, Argentina) is making a two-day "authorized" visit to Kashmir. The government, which had so far opened the doors of the region only to a delegation of far-right MEPs, intended to exercise transparency. But the visit was mocked and criticized, like the previous one. The diplomats are fully supervised by the Indian authorities and will not be able to meet the incarcerated political leaders.

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