Kashmir: News – 10 January 2020 – CNN

New Delhi (CNN): The Indian government has one week to review the suspension of internet services in Indian-administered Kashmir following an order from the Supreme Court.The recently created union territory of Jammu and Kashmir has not had internet access for more than 150 days, the longest such shutdown in India.

Internet, mobile phone and landline services were suspended after the government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, removed partial autonomy of the former state in August. Friday’s ruling came after the country’s top court was responding to a series of petitions challenging the restrictions.The court did not rule whether the internet is to be restored immediately. But the judgment directed that access to the internet is guaranteed under the Constitution as freedom to speech and expression; curtailing that right is unconstitutional if the government does it indefinitely and without legitimate reason.

In October, some mobile phone and landline services were restored.”The court has to say whether the fundamental rights and freedoms of people are being curtailed in accordance with law and Constitution or not. And then the court held that, insofar as the shutdown of internet is concerned, the court said that it is to be recognized that freedom of internet is part of freedom of speech and expression,” said Vrinda Grover, a lawyer representing one of the petitioners in the case, speaking to reporters outside the courthouse. She added that the court had said “freedom of press is impacted by the shutdown of communication and internet.”

Kashmiri journalists protest the internet blockade in Srinagar in October 2019.

Kashmiri journalists protest the internet blockade in Srinagar in October 2019.

The ongoing internet blackout in Indian-controlled Kashmir is now the longest ever in a democracy, according to Access Now, an advocacy group that tracks internet freedom. Only the autocratic governments of China and junta-era Myanmar have cut off access for longer. Kashmiris have been without internet access for so long that WhatsApp has reportedly begun deleting their accounts for inaction.Jammu and Kashmir was put on lockdown August 5 after Modi stripped the state’s autonomy and reclassified it as a union territory. Article 370 of India’s Constitution granted the state — which encompasses the disputed Kashmir region — special status, including the power to have its own Constitution, flag and autonomy over all matters, save for certain policy areas such as foreign affairs and defense. The move was controversial and gives the government in New Delhi greater authority over the disputed Muslim-majority region.Kashmir has been the epicenter of an often-violent territorial struggle between India and Pakistan, as both nuclear-armed neighbors claim it in its entirety.Anticipating public backlash to the move to revoke Article 370, India deployed tens of thousands of additional troops to the region and imposed a communications blackout, travel curfews and roadblocks.

Longest internet shutdown in a democracy

The ongoing internet blackout in Indian-controlled Kashmir is now the longest ever in a democracy, according to Access Now, an advocacy group that tracks internet freedom. Only the autocratic governments of China and junta-era Myanmar have cut off access for longer. Kashmiris have been without internet access for so long that WhatsApp has reportedly begun deleting their accounts for inaction.Jammu and Kashmir was put on lockdown August 5 after Modi stripped the state’s autonomy and reclassified it as a union territory. Article 370 of India’s Constitution granted the state — which encompasses the disputed Kashmir region — special status, including the power to have its own Constitution, flag and autonomy over all matters, save for certain policy areas such as foreign affairs and defense. The move was controversial and gives the government in New Delhi greater authority over the disputed Muslim-majority region.Kashmir has been the epicenter of an often-violent territorial struggle between India and Pakistan, as both nuclear-armed neighbors claim it in its entirety.Anticipating public backlash to the move to revoke Article 370, India deployed tens of thousands of additional troops to the region and imposed a communications blackout, travel curfews and roadblocks.

CNN’s Swati Gupta and Esha Mitra contributed to this report.

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