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Mainstream, VOL LVII No 44 New Delhi October 19, 2019

National Security Paradigm: Social Media Ban in Jammu & Kashmir

Sunday 20 October 2019

by Nishtha Chadha

Abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A has led to the emergence of new fault-lines in Jammu and Kashmir. The August 5, 2019 decision of the incumbent BJP Government at the Centre has set the new normal in the politics of J&K in particular and in India in general. The dilution of the special status of the State has led to simmering tensions that question the established ecosystem of the status quo politics and the overground and underground political and separatist politics.

In the aftermath of the abrogation of these Articles the mode of governance and socio-political structure in the State is witnessing an inertia in the traditional politics as the practitioners of the seventy year-long political mechanism have been left redundant with the creation of a political vacuum for the separatists who seem to be taken by surprise as the present political paralysis, especially in the Kashmir Valley, establishes the reality of bankruptcy of the Valley-based political formations to respond to the new situation. After all, it was the Valley-based underground and overground political class that either identified with the political arrangement of a State within the State or the politics of separation from India.

In such a scenario of political desperation, the expression leads to chaos and vulnerability when the narrative is guided by the exported ideas of subversion. It poses many questions in terms of political consciousness and the inclusiveness of the political activism that is prevalent in the Valley.

Witnessing the sense of desperation and propensity to indulge in expression through the disruptive idiom, further fault-lines are created in the social media. The government, on the advise of the security agencies, seems to be over-guarded to restrict the usage of the social media network like Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, Instagram etc. as the previous experience of the minor incident of instigating the people has led to the deterioration of law and order on the ground. Be it the killing of the militant commander, Burhan Wani, or the Amarnath land row.

But, it has led to a new paradoxical situation in terms of governance as most of the transactions are being done digitally, be it banking or management of offices, in administration to deliver amenities to the people. Moreover, the academic pursuits and research in present times are purely internet-dependent. This new situation presents a challenge in governance. Though meant to mitigate the effects of fake news, rumour-mongering and misuse of the virtual world by the vested interests both inside the State and from across the borders it can be insulated to a great extent but it acts as a double-edged weapon as it deprives the citizens of accessibility to the outside world for human development.

Keeping in view the multi-pronged functions of the state machinery amid the national security challenges, the time has come to introspect and evolve a middle ground that maintains an equitable balance to uphold the national security concerns in the larger national interest and cater to the needs of the local populace to have an access to the latest happenings through the internet.

The forbidding geo-political paradigm poses a new challenge to national security in the aftermath of the abrogation of Articles 35A and 370. The existing cyber laws demand an overhaul that should be made user-friendly, upholding the right to information, yet making national security non-negotiable.

Jammu and Kashmir poses not only a governance challenge but a strategic imperative in terms of the national security paradigm and as such cannot be governed by adhoc policy measures. The vulnerability of the Indian state, while mainstreaming the governance, requires continuity of constitutional measures so that the people of the State are not alienated from the fundamental rights which accrue to them for being citizens of the Indian nation. But, the thirty long years of ethno-religious conflict have subverted the politico-social narrative making it prone to the fissiparous tendencies that want to take away the State from the political domain of India. As such it requires comprehensive policy-measures that are inclusive and sensitive to the human feelings of the people of the State; taking care of their culture and regional aspirations.

The internet embargo, that has insulated the State from the nation and the entire world, gives an unwanted opportunity to the enemies of the nation to indulge in propaganda to project Indian democracy as anti-people. The strategic community and policy-makers will have to segmentise the governance of the State in various parts that take into account the various areas which can be subjected to direct and indirect intervention and at the same time integrating the segmentised areas of governance into the policy-convergence.

The majority of the internet users are the under-graduate and post-graduate students in the State. Besides, there are a number of researchers who depend on internet accessibility to shape their academics and be aware of the contemporary developments in the international areas in various disciplines. This internet blockade, if not reduced or completely with-drawn, can turn such a human resource of the nation into a vociferous asset for the separatists thus indulging in reverse utilisation of the youth for subversion.

The present scenario of constitutional change for mainstreaming the State with the creation of two Union Territories—Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh—after the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A has posed new challenges that should be seen in terms of exploitation of the local population for anti-national activities by the jihadi sponsors across the borders and a future gap that can be filled by the forces who can subvert the polity from within by arm-twisting the otherwise aspirational youth for anti-national activities.

References

https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/topic/Media-ban-in-Kashmir

https://www.news18.com/news/tech/social-media-platforms-banned-in-jk-1384635.html

https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/kashmir-jammu-internet-services-doda-kishtwar-doda-ramban-rajouri-poonch-1592848-2019-08-29

https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/tech/internet/social-media-compliance-with-govt-requests-shoots-up-after-jammu-kashmir-move/articleshow/71073553.cms

https://thewire.in/rights/modis-digital-india-comes-crashing-down-in-kashmirs-longest-ever-internet-gag

https://thewire.in/politics/social-media-ban-jammu-kashmir

https://www.firstpost.com/india/despite-ban-jaish-e-muhammad-reappears-on-social-media-to-instigate-islamists-in-kashmir-to-heighten-protest-against-india-7207861.html

https://thenextweb.com/in/2019/08/05/india-shuts-down-communications-for-millions-before-stripping-jammu-kashmir-of-autonomy/

https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/behind-the-info-curtain-kashmir-has-learnt-to-work-around-social-media-bans/articleshow/58438207.cms?from=mdr

Nishtha Chadha is a Ph.D Scholar in the Department of Political Science, University of Jammu, Jammu. Her email is: nishthachadha111[at]gmail.com

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