The Supreme Court in India has ruled that the internet restrictions in Indian-administered Kashmir are unlawful and have been in place for too long. Since August the internet has been blocked in Kashmir, which has had enormous consequences. Now the court has said that freedom of internet is a basic human right and has ordered the government to review the suspension of internet services in the region.
The Conflict in Kashmir
In the last year tensions have been rising in the Kashmir region. The conflict between India and Pakistan about the disputed region has taken on new forms once again. In Kashmir, unlike in the rest of India, most of the population is Muslim. In August 2019 the Indian government stripped Kashmir of its autonomy. This caused great protests in the region. In a reaction the government shutdown most of the internet in the state, in the hope that this would counteract the protests. However, the shutdown is still active more than 150 days later, leaving millions of people without internet access.
The shutdown has had tremendous consequences for the everyday life in Kashmir. So much of modern day life happens on the internet that a block like this can have dangerous consequences. For example, the hospitals in the region have been without internet for over 5 months, before it was finally restored two weeks ago. Moreover, it was difficult for people to check on friends and family because most telecommunication was down. In September the landlines were working again but mobile networks still havened been completely restored. People with prepaid phones are still unable to make calls in the region.
It is unclear whether the court ruling will bring about change. But hopefully the Indian government will allow internet back in the region.
Many people in the Kashmir region have been kicked off WhatsApp because they weren’t able to use the app for over 120 days. WhatsApp accounts expire after 120 days of inactivity. The company does this to “maintain security and limit data retention”. People will be able to join WhatsApp again once they regain access to the internet. However, they will have to be re-added to any group chats. When your account expires you are automatically kicked out of all your groups. This problem might not be the most pressing but it does illustrate how long the shutdown has been going on for.