Amidst a political upheaval, internet and mobile services have been cut off in the northern Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K)—yet again.
This is the 51st time in 2019 that access to internet, declared a basic human right by the United Nations, has been suspended here, according to tracker internetshutdown.in. Last year, there were 65 shutdowns, and 176 over the past eight years, including a six-month ban in 2016.
“Mobile and broadband internet services have been suspended in Kashmir. There has been heavy deployment of local police and contingents of paramilitary forces curfew under section 144 has been imposed in Kashmir Valley and prominent political leaders, Mehbooba Mufti, Omar Abdullah, and Sajad Lone have already been put under house arrest,” internetshutdown.in said. “Sources have also informed that families have not been able to reach their friends and family on the phone in Kashmir Valley.”
As of 6am today (Aug. 5), section 144 was imposed in J&K, restricting the unlawful assembly of more than four people in an area. Around 11am, the Narendra Modi government announced scrapping article 370 which gave J&K a special status within the Indian union. The government also plans to split the state into two and make them both union territories.
Most of the internet shutdowns in the Valley this year were in reaction to gunfights between security forces and militants. In some instances, the web was not accessible in some areas as a “preventive measure” on Republic Day or in view of the death anniversaries of people like Burhan Wani, a member of terrorist group Hizbul Mujahideen, and Mirwaiz Qazi Nissar Ahmad, founder of socio-religious organisation Ummat-e-Islami (UeI). Some shutdowns were placed during elections, too.
A notable blackout also happened following the Pulwama attacks in February, in which a Jaish-e-Mohammed suicide bomber rammed an explosive-laden vehicle into a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) bus, killing 45 Indian paramilitary personnel.