The Government of Jammu and Kashmir (Home Department) on Wednesday, passed another order, extending the restrictions on internet speed to 2G and internet connectivity with Mac-binding in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, to continue till 17th June. “The directions to remain in force unless modified earlier,” stated the administration.
Earlier on 11th May, the apex court directed for the constitution of a ‘Special Committee’, headed by the Secretary of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, to examine the issues that had been raised by the Petitioners in a plea which sought restoration of 4G speed internet services in Jammu and Kashmir.
Accordingly, a Special Committee was to be constituted, comprising of Secretaries at the State as well as the National level to look into the prevailing circumstances and immediately determine the necessity of the continuation of the restrictions in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.
However, it is pertinent to note that the instant Order of extension of internet speed restrictions passed by the Government of Jammu and Kashmir does not mention any possible inputs of the Special Committee that was to be constituted as per directions of the Supreme Court.
Earlier, 2G mobile internet services were restored in Srinagar, however, they were snapped on 19th May due to a gunfight in the Nawa Kadal area of old Srinagar city. As per sources, Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist Junaid Ashraf Khan, son of Tehreek-e-Hurriyat chairman Mohammed Ashraf Khan was among the two terrorists killed in the encounter with security forces at Nawakadal.
Thus, the current order specifies that during the period between 12th May 2020 to 27th May 2020, in a bid to prevent the likelihood of misuse of the data services by the anti-national elements for mobilizing the crowds and creating law and order situation, mobile internet services and even mobile cellular services (voice and SMS), had to be suspended for a limited period of time in specific areas due to a rise in the number of encounters and terror incidents, specifically that of Nawakadal.
The order further states that multiple instances of terrorist attacks, which rely upon internet connectivity, have disturbed public order in the UT.
“Whereas there have also been multiple instances of terrorist attacks, including attacks on security forces – leading to even death of the SF personnel, and attempts to encourage terrorism through uploading and circulation of provocative videos and false propaganda – largely relying on internet connectivity, to disturb the public order,” read the order.
Last month, the Jammu and Kashmir administration had sought the dismissal of a plea in the apex court which sought restoration of 4G services, while insisting that high-speed internet will enable the spread of fake news/rumors and transfer of heavy data files (audio/video files) will become prevalent and may be utilized by terror outfits for incitement as also in planning attacks.
It also informed the top court that 2G internet is sufficient to download e-learning apps and to browse video lectures as it contended that the right to access the internet is not a fundamental right and the right to carry on any trade or business through the medium of the internet can be curtailed if found necessary.
Subsequently, on consideration of the overall security scenario and reports of law enforcement agencies which insist on the necessity of internet restrictions to prevent misuse of the internet, the Government of Jammu and Kashmir has ordered for the restrictions on internet speed to remain in force till 17th June, earlier while claiming that the reports received by it suggest spurt in infiltration by militants during the coming weeks.
“The reports suggest a rise in the infiltration of (militant) during the coming weeks due to the onset of summer and melting of snow, which gets facilitated through the use of Voice on Internet Protocol (VOIP) and encrypted mobile communication, being used by the operatives/anti-national elements to communicate with their handlers from across the border,” stated Shaleen Kabra, Principal Secretary Home Department.