Internet services suspended in Kashmir for a month

Srinagar: The Jammu and Kashmir Home Department on Wednesday banned 22 social networking sites in the restive Kashmir Valley for one month.
Social networking sites including Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, QQ, WeChat, Ozone, Tumblr, Google, Baidu, Skype, Viber, Line, Snapchat, Pinterest, Telegram and Reditt have been banned in Kashmir for one month or till further orders.
The department has in its order directed all internet service providers that “any message or class of messages to or from any persons or class of persons relating to any subject or any pictorial content through the following social networking sites shall not be transmitted in the Kashmir Valley, with immediate effect, for a period of one month or till further orders, whichever is earlier.”
The department has invoked powers conferred on it under Indian Telegraph Act and Information Technology Act to suspend the social media sites, the officials said.
The department has filed a caveat in the J&K High Court registry pertaining to its order.
Internet services have been banned in the state on several occasions in the past also but it is for the first time that the state home department has issued a formal order to this effect.
However, it is not yet clear if the order pertains to all internet services or just the mobile internet services, which are already suspended since 17th April.
The mobile internet services in the Valley were snapped following widespread student protests in the summer capital Srinagar and almost all other Valley towns.
The protests were inflamed by the alleged police atrocities on the students of a degree college in southern Pulwama town on April 15.
While over 50 students, including girls, had been injured in Pulwama, as many as 150 students and over a couple of dozen security personnel were injured in subsequent incidents elsewhere in the Valley.
The protests continued in some parts of the Valley, including Shopian, Pulwama and Bijbehara, on Wednesday even after the authorities had ordered closure of three higher secondary schools in Srinagar, students of which had fought pitched battles with security forces along the streets of the summer capital again on Monday.
The authorities believe that such protests and violence are fanned through social media. The PDP-BJP government and also security forces have faced embarrassing situations in the recent past when videos on alleged atrocities on the Kashmiri youth by uniformed forces were uploaded on social media which added to the anger among the people and also evoked widespread condemnation within the state and beyond.
Reacting to the ban on the internet, former chief minister Farooq Abdullah, said that the communication blockade will play havoc with J&K’s economy and students’ future. He alleged that the PDP-BJP government is persecuting people politically and economically alike.
“The blockade would play havoc with the State’s economy and in turn rendering thousands of youth unemployed,” he asserted.
He alleged that the state government was not only suppressing the people through “brute force” but was also “persecuting” them economically.
“It will seriously affect our businesses and especially youth-oriented new start-ups in the e-commerce sector that depend primarily on internet accessibility and penetration. This will in turn lead to an increase in unemployment as the private sector especially the tourism sector will be severely hit,” he said.
“Using such measures to suppress dissent against a deeply unpopular government is as futile an exercise as that government continuing to be in power despite being rejected by the people of the State”, Abdullah added.

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