Paris – The Francophone Association for Human Rights (AFDH) joins Access Now and 23 other organizations in a joint statement which calls for an end to ongoing communication restrictions in Jammu and Kashmir.
Since August 4, 2019, both regions have been facing unprecedented restrictions on communications and have still not been completely restored after over a year. These communication restrictions began with a blackout where landlines and mobile services were completely cut off. Between January 2020 and March 2020, 2G internet was made available however only for certain websites. Although 2G connection was reinstated in March 2020, various districts throughout the Union Territory have experienced more than 40 internet shutdowns.
These communication blackouts have caused many disturbances to citizens, with students being unable to access education resources, the media seriously damaged and the economy crippled as businesses have collapsed due to the lack of a stable internet connection. Furthermore, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, people in the region have suffered from significant emotional trauma because of the communication restrictions and their inability to contact loved ones. Healthcare workers have too been affected by the network disruption making accessing accurate information from the World Health Organization (WHO) and other health professionals almost impossible.
The joint statement created by Access Now also read that multiple petitions have been filed to the Supreme Court of India denouncing the blockade however results have been unresponsive. Several special rapporteurs appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) issued a joint statement on August 22, 2019 which declared that, “The blackout is a form of collective punishment of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, without even a pretext of precipitating offense.”
These repeated internet restrictions are causing serious harm to the fundamental rights and democratic values to the people of Jammu and Kashmir. AFDH and 24 other supporting organizations urge the government of the Union Territory and associate government authorities to restore high speed internet access in the region. We also request the government to ensure stable and secure communication services in the Union Territory.