JAMMU AND KASHMIR: ‘FUNDAMENTAL DISAFFECTION' HAS NOT GONE AWAY
News behind the News|NbN 20 January 2020
A convoy of three dozen Union ministers descended on the newlycreated Union territory of Jammu and Kashmir last week to promote development plans of the Centre.

Among other things, the abrogation of Article 370 was justified by the government on the ground that it was a hindrance to development activities in the state. However, in the past five months, little development efforts have been noticed.

Faith in official pronouncements, writes the Asian Age “appears to be at an all-time low. Greater energy by the Centre seems to have been expended on crafting ‘a new politics’ for Kashmir — after locking up prominent politicians of Valleycentric political parties, including three former chief ministers of the state — rather than on doing anything to give concrete shape to development plans.”

The paper raises the key question whether “development possible in the absence of mobile telephony, which was the case for much of the time since August, and the snapping of the Internet?”

SUPREME COURT JUDGEMENT ON ‘RESTRICTIONS’

The Supreme Court addressed this issue when a three-judge bench of Justices N.V. Ramana, R. Subhash Reddy and B.R. Gavai on 10 January ruled that “suspending Internet services indefinitely is impermissible” and that the “freedom of speech and expression and the freedom to practise any profession or carry on trade, business or occupation over the medium of Internet, enjoys constitutional protection under Article 19(1) (a) and Article 19 (1) (g)”. The court directed the J&K administration to “review all orders suspending Internet services forthwith”.

The judgement has elicited mixed responses: In its response, the central government said it is restoring broadband connections to government installations and providers of essential services, hospitals, banks and the tourism sector in Jammu and Kashmir. However, notes the Indian Express, “the steps falls far short of the complete withdrawal of curbs on public communications which the court had sought. ISPs are required to block social media sites and technology by which such a restriction can be bypassed, before providing access to institutions and essential service providers.

“Institutions and offices must monitor internet usage, record users and change access credentials every day. A call will be taken on ful ly opening up mobile data communications after the Republic Day celebrations, the government says. This is far too tentative, considering the spectrum of fundamental rights that have been violated by the internet shutdown in Jammu and Kashmir, which is the longest ever in a democracy.”

According to the Asian Age, “the merit of the Supreme Court judgment is that it is long on explicating provisions of the law, including Article 19 which deals with the freedom of speech, expression and the freedom to practise a trade.

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