India Opposes Lifting ‘Longest Electronic Curfew’ in Kashmir
(Bloomberg) -- India is opposed to resuming normal mobile Internet services across the Jammu and Kashmir region due to national security concerns, the country’s Attorney General K.K. Venugopal informed the top court on Tuesday, according to lawyers present during the hearing.
Raising worries about militancy and violation of the lockdown, Venugopal told a three-judge panel headed by Justice N.V. Ramana that recently around 500 people attended a funeral of a militant. The top court, which is hearing a petition by a journalists’ body seeking directions for allowing 4G coverage in the region, has directed the federal government to submit a written statement outlining its reasons for the continued restrictions, said lawyers after the hearing. It was conducted via video conferencing amid India’s nationwide lockdown.
“The matter will be taken up on Monday now,” Venugopal said over phone Tuesday evening, noting both the federal government and the administration in Jammu and Kashmir opposed the petition. “Meanwhile we will file our replies.”
The government’s stand follows its unprecedented months-long communication shutdown in the region after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s August 5 move last year to end the state’s seven decades of autonomy and place it directly under federal rule. The “longest electronic curfew in history” has dragged India down by two positions to rank 142 in the World Press Freedom Index, released this week by the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders.
India had gradually relaxed communications restrictions in certain areas of the region earlier this year after the top court in January held that continued restrictions were not allowed under law.
In March, however, Internet speed on mobiles was again restricted to a decade-old 2G network technology, which is too slow to allow video calls required for medical consultations or online classes in a nation under lockdown to stem the coronavirus outbreak, the petitioner Foundation for Media Professionals, a not-for-profit organization said in its plea.
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