KASHMIR INTERNET BAN; ‘A PERVERSE JIBE AT MODI’S DIGITAL INDIA’

The morning of Eid ul Azha saw Kashmir’s freedom of speech throttled barbarically with a precautionary internet ban, resulting in widespread uproar. The state government imposed termination of data services from the morning of the Muslim festival, on the 25th of September and further extended by 3 days, reaching the Jammu region. This was due to a view of apprehension of consequences caused by the misuse of internet services by miscreants in order to create communal tension. The directive caused due controversy, that too amidst the hullabaloo of the beef ban and those ready to defy it. Avoiding anti-national elements were to be apparently avoided with this measure. To keep an atmosphere of law and order society and they government imposed this ban. However, the wry amusement and irony of the whole issue lies subsequently in what Prime Minister Narendra Modi has in mind for the ever growing India.

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There is no escaping the recent mediascape being awashed with the praises of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Having made international news by visiting Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook Headquarters in Silicon Valley in California, the World Wide Web is plastered with photos of the social media mogul and the Indian elected official. The Indian prime minister is leaving no stone unturned to reach his goal of ‘Digitalized India’. Being the first politician after Obama to have participated in a Facebook Town Hall event, he has attracted the attention of many correspondents, thus taking this initiative to a global level, but somehow remaining hypocritical when it comes to the situation in Kashmir. Modi’s campaign has been met with a colorful reaction, with profile photos of Facebook users transforming into tricolors rapidly to show their support in his endeavors. Without a doubt, Modi has started a coup with this proposal, but the Digital India concept should be scrutinized thoroughly before we understand what we are celebrating- that is, if we should be celebrating at all.

Creation of digital Infrastructure, delivering of services digitally and digital literacy; these are the three aims of the movement that have been met with what some would call a digital divide.  There are indisputable benefits that India will be offered a digital platform to connect and raise itself to parity with the rest of the considerably more e-connected world.  It is a beyond a doubt that India will see an enhancement in its industry, in both large and small enterprises.  Further, this approach will ostensibly create numerous jobs.  If carried out appropriately, it would also be ideal in connecting citizens to the government.

In contrast to the other side of the digital divide, there are those who see the light in Modi’s digital initiative as one so bright it will blind the nation. An idea of an electronically connected country surely sounds beneficial, but a majority has flayed the government’s misplaced priorities. The misnomer ‘digital India’ seems a preposterous notion where fundamental issues are being ignored.  The current state of the country has rendered it incapable of fulfilling even the basic requirements of an Indian citizen. It is every Indian national’s right to be able to look up to government they themselves elected, for staple necessities, which are at present far from provided.  How does the government hope to provide and revolutionize literacy through digitalism when it still has one of the highest illiteracy and poverty rates globally? How does Modi expect to address issues such as child labor when still today 12 million (allegedly 60 million) girls and boys wake up for an 18 hour day at work instead of packing their bags for school? Corporate have been predicted to invest over 4.5 lakh crore in the initiative; controversially this is greater than the total of all the government scheme’s budgets. In a country where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, and corruption is candid, this will undoubtedly have the public throwing bricks at the notion.

The cynicism of Modi’s continued lobbying for a digitalized India under the shadow of the internet ban in Kashmir has left many outraged. However, much of the population are still under the misinterpretation that the underlying issues of places such as Kashmir that have become victim to atrocities such as internet bans should be ignored. They have become oblivious to the fact that maybe other measures should be adopted to tackle issues such as communal tensions. The right to express one’s own muse and freedom of speech should be every Indian’s right. The Prime minister of India should realize that the solution of tackling the effects of laws such as beef bans should be searched for elsewhere, and internet bans are not the answer.

Perhaps it is so mesmerized by the magic of ‘Digital India’ that sporadic incidents of hate and prejudiced acts do not bother it anymore. Tackling the real issues such as why the government is showing streaks of dictator like behavior in Kashmir, and infiltrating the freedom of speech should be Modi’s main concern. Undoubtedly, no country is free from fault, but it should be made a primary concern to bring it up the mark before coming up with drastic and unrealistic goals. Youths are being lured by the dollar dream that PM Modi has shown through his US visit. But once they awaken from this deep slumber, they will realize it cannot survive in this divisive country where the most basic issues are left unresolved.

-Jovariya Ahsan

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