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India: Keep Internet Open And Secure in Jammu and Kashmir

Global Coalition Calls for India to Keep the Internet Open And Secure in the Territory of Jammu And Kashmir

August 15 - In an open letter Access Now and other organizations that make up the global #KeepitOn Coalition called on the Union Government of India to restore the internet in Jammu and Kashmir and keep it on. Reports suggest the territory has been under complete internet shutdown for the past 11 days. India currently leads the world in the number of internet shutdowns with 74 in 2019 alone, 54 of these recorded in Jammu and Kashmir.

This recent internet shutdown is also accompanied by a complete shutdown of communications, as well as restrictions on the movement of individuals for the past few days. These developments come in the background of political developments regarding the reorganization of the political structure of the region, through legislation by the Parliament of India. For the past few months, the region has been under the administration of the Union Government of India, and the orders for the current shutdowns have also been issued by them. The terms and reasons for the order for shutdowns are unknown. This lack of transparency is concerning and makes the situation worse.

The recent shutdown actions are taking away the benefits of communication infrastructure and connectivity from the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Such shutdowns, in addition to curtailing fundamental rights, also reduce the confidence of the people in the benefits utility, and the security of the internet, while restricting the freedom of expression of the population. A spokesperson for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said that the latest restrictions in Kashmir would “exacerbate the human rights situation in the region”.

On August 15, 2019, India will celebrate its 73rd Independence Day. As part of this celebration the government should show that it supports fundamental human rights standards. It can do this by restoring the internet to the citizens of Jammu and Kashmir and in turn, give them a voice to express themselves freely online.

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