After Internet Ban in J&K, an Open Letter to CM Mehbooba Mufti

A citizen of Kashmir writes an open letter to Mehbooba Mufti urging her to lift the unwarranted ban on social media.

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A citizen of Kashmir writes an open letter to Mehbooba Mufti urging her to lift the unwarranted ban on social media. (Photo: Rhythum Seth/<b>The Quint</b>)
After Internet Ban in J&K, an Open Letter to CM Mehbooba Mufti

Mehbooba Ji,

Pardon my impudence,

I am writing this letter to you in the hope that you would consider my request to take necessary steps to lift the ban on social media as soon as possible.

Since you have ordered the ban, virtual life has been disrupted. People are finding new ways to bypass the ban by using some virtual networks which give them access to their profiles.

It’s annoying that the ban, a sinister act, which is not working anymore, hasn’t been lifted yet. When people are able to access their profiles easily without facing any hindrance while uploading content – an act which you think is disturbing peace – may I know why is there still a ban on social media?

Why Are You Afraid of Dissent?

Madam, may I dare raise a few questions? First, I would like to ask, are you afraid of dissent? People who used to share views on their timelines are anguished as they feel betrayed. Secondly, are you afraid of confronting the reality?

Since the demise of your father, you have professed his vision. In every statement you talk about his broad vision about Kashmir and the progress made towards that end.

In his very first speech after taking oath as the chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, he spoke about freedom of speech as guaranteed by the Indian Constitution. So, why are you trying to suppress people’s voices by gagging social media?

Also Read: A Year After Mufti Sayeed’s Demise, Mehbooba Has Survived it All

What Has the Ban Got to Do with Unrest?

To assume that the ban is an initiative to bring peace is hilarious. If the Kashmir wrangle could be solved by banning SMS, internet and social media and by suppressing the voice of the masses, then the problems which Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan are facing could have been resolved by taking the same route.

Even a war-torn place like Palestine has never witnessed anything like this. If social media is a threat to peace then you should have treated the views of the people in a positive sense.

Since you take feedback in a negative sense and loathe those who dislike your government, doesn’t this deprive citizens of their right to freedom of speech, the very essence of democracy?



Students throwing stones on policemen during a clash at Govt Degree College Bemina in Srinagar, 23 May 2017. (Photo: PTI)
Students throwing stones on policemen during a clash at Govt Degree College Bemina in Srinagar, 23 May 2017. (Photo: PTI)

Promise of Replacing Stones with Laptops

The internet is a tool that happens to be a source of livelihood for people like me. Who would provide food to those with business interests in social media? Now, you might question me saying that social media is not a place where you can earn. In which case, I have to ask if you are technically up to date or do you still harbour the notion that Facebook is just an online forum for chatting?

Last year, when PM Narendra Modi visited Kashmir, he mentioned that stones and guns in the hands of youngsters should be replaced with laptops.

Ever since Section 66A was quashed by the Supreme Court, people have every right to post any content either in favour of or against you.

You are in charge of the state and you should deal with the situation pragmatically. The five percent theory (that only five percent of Kashmiris incite violence and are anti-national) doesn’t hold water.

People across India, even the head of Infosys, believe that the ban is totally against the rights of the people. So, why you are not lifting it?

Also Read: Zubair Ahmed Turay and The “Missing Men” of Kashmir’s Militancy

Idea of ‘Digital Kashmir’ Shattered

The ban is not working anymore; it’s just hurting me and my business. It is also hurting those who rely on social media security-related business, as they are not able to check loopholes with these dumb VPNs.

I remember how in one of your speeches in south Kashmir, you had said that youngsters should rely on themselves and focus on start-ups. In one of the seminars organised by one of your political analysts and youth president at Anantnag, he said that there is a very low chance of getting employed but a change could be brought about through start-ups. Unfortunately, every start-up these days has a direct or indirect connection with the internet (especially social media).

Social media is not just a chatting place, it is becoming a hub to attract people to your business and promote products or services. Then why have you ordered the ban on these sites? With this ban you have shattered the dreams of those who are focussing on start-ups. It seems you have punctured the idea of “Digital Kashmir”.

Has Mehbooba diverged from the vision as envisaged by Mufti Mohammad Sayeed? (Photo: Rhythum Seth/ <b>The Quint</b>)
Has Mehbooba diverged from the vision as envisaged by Mufti Mohammad Sayeed? (Photo: Rhythum Seth/ The Quint)

State of Bans

The state of Jammu and Kashmir should enter the Guinness Book of World Records for banning almost everything. You are not allowed to watch any channel, you are not allowed to access any site, you are not allowed to question the credibility of anyone, and in short, you are not allowed to do anything.

Then one can simply raise their finger and question, “Are we living in a democratic nation or under monarchic rule?”. If the head doesn’t like anything, he easily drives his subordinates to ban it. This is turning out to be a comedy of errors.

You remember your past activities when you were out of power? How you were organising rallies, how you were questioning Omar Abdullah over implementing the ban on SMS and so on? Now when you are the head of the state, this sudden shift in stand has left people astounded.

You may balk at this letter, but remember that you will have to face elections very soon. Here’s the honest feedback – the people who you claim to be representing feel disgusted now. It’s high time for you to reverse these coercive policies. Otherwise your downfall won’t be a distant dream.

Also Read: Internet Shutdown in J&K: Creative Approach Needed, Not Blackouts

(Yasir Altaf Zargar is a Srinagar-based web security analyst. He can be reached @zargaryasir. The views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

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