India shuts down internet in occupied Kashmir on Republic Day

Indian security forces in occupied Kashmir. Editorial credit: Shakir Wani

As part of “precautionary measures” on January 26, internet services on mobile phones were once again suspended in Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IOJK) on India’s Republic Day.

Indian officials in IOJK said: “The mobile internet services have been temporarily suspended in the valley for ensuring peaceful Republic Day celebrations.”

Internet and mobile phone network suspensions in IOJK are not a new phenomena. Since 2005 India has been suspending networks in IOJK on their Independence Day (August 15th) and Republic Day (January 26th) as part of security measures for the smooth celebration of flag hoisting ceremonies.

People in IOJK observe both the occasions as black days and suspend work, shut their shops and businesses and remain indoors. Although government functionaries have to attend the flag hoisting ceremonies, work remains mainly suspended.

The celebrations are held amid the heavy presence of armed forces around the venues (mainly district headquarters) and the movement of vehicles remain suspended during that time.

The internet shutdown came despite that fact that on Tuesday authorities said there would be no restrictions in place. Inspector-General of Police, Vijay Kumar, said that “there will be no restriction on movements tomorrow [Republic Day].”

Quoting top officials in the Indian establishment, senior journalist Ahmed Ali Fayaz tweeted: “No curfew, no restriction to movement, no internet shutdown to be enforced in any part of Jammu & Kashmir on 26 January R-Day this year: top officials.”

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But former Indian Chief Minister of IOJK replied to Fayaz saying: “Lies, lies & more lies. Your ‘top officials’ don’t seem to know their elbows from their behinds. So much for ‘no internet shutdown,’ mobile internet has been shut down since this morning.”

After the revocation of limited autonomy on August 5, 2019, when India scrapped Article 370, a report “India’s internet shutdown in Kashmir is the longest ever in a democracy,” published in Washington Post read: “The 7 million people in the Kashmir Valley were abruptly returned to a pre-Internet era. They are unable to operate online businesses or read this article. In early December, they began disappearing from WhatsApp because accounts are automatically deleted after 120 days of inactivity. Journalists rely on a government-run centre with just 10 computers to file their stories. The Kashmir Chamber of Commerce estimates $1.4 billion in losses already.”

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