On 26th April, the state government of Jammu and Kashmir issued an order banning 22 social media sites including Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp, Tumblr, and Snapchat, among others. According to the govt., the month-long ban was imposed to maintain “peace and tranquility” in the Kashmir Valley.

 

 

A part of the order says:

 

“During law and order disturbance of 2016 in the Kashmir Valley that anti-national and subversive elements, inter alia, extensively misused Social Media sites and Instant Messaging Services for vitiating peace and instigating violence, which caused large-scale damage to life and property.”

 

Prior to this, on April 17th, 3G and 4G internet services were blocked in the state.

 

This is not the first time that the Kashmir government has banned the internet or social media sites in an attempt to maintain “peace” in the conflict-stricken state.

 

Since 2012, the internet has been shut down 28 times in Kashmir.

 

Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter have allowed residents of the Valley to express dissent over the unrest in Kashmir.

 

 

 

The decision to ban them comes after a video of a man tied to an army jeep went viral on social media. The video received a lot of backlash, and the army in Kashmir was accused of violating human rights.

 

 

 

The problem here is that the ban might stop Kashmiris from publicly expressing their opinions right now. However, it won’t do anything but make them feel angry and silenced in the long run. 

 

Stopping people from indulging in public debates or discussions isn’t the sign of a healthy democracy.

 

The government, in its order, mentions several times that the step has been taken to stop “anti-nationals” from instigating violence and fear. What it doesn’t seem to have taken into account is that by suppressing someone’s opinion, it’s taking away their right to freedom of speech. 

 

A lot of people these days depend on social media for daily news. The ban will make it harder for Kashmiris to keep track of what’s happening around them and in the country at large.

 

Students who rely on the internet for research and studying will experience a setback in their academics.

 

The ban will also adversely affect people whose livelihoods revolve around social media sites.

 

 

The Committee to Protect Journalists has asked for the ban to be lifted as it would be detrimental to journalists trying to report and communicate through Whatsapp and other such platforms.

 

 

This seems to have had no effect, though. According to latest updates, authorities are hard at work,  taking down all the social media sites.

 

 

Cover Image Source: Flickr