Kashmir internet ban: No one knows who ordered it
In Kashmir, the step of the administration to order mobile internet ban to curtail users of social media to curb the spread of rumours which could lead to protests and violence has become quite common. With news stories regularly reported which either talk of the imposition of such a ban or of people finding a way around it.
And in the Valley, which has been a engulfed in tensions amid protests since last year which have reported nearly 100 dead, such reports have become even more frequent as the area was under such a ban for four months during the year.
Though such a suspension is seen by the administration as a necessary and logical step, it has been heavily criticised and condemned by not only the people of the state but also human rights organisations from around the world.
While the ban is always talked about and its effects debated regularly, it is always assumed that the authorities have ordered such a step. But the question about which branch of government ordered it, police or civilian administration, is not always given much thought. That is, until now.
According to reports in the national daily, the two arms of the state government, the home department and the divisional commissioner's office, which are responsible for law and order in the state, have denied ordering a ban on the phone and internet services ordered on July 9 of last year.
At least that is what has been claimed by the Srinagar-based Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), following the replies received to the Right to Information queries filled by it.
"The information given in the RTI will be checked," said a Union home ministry spokesperson according to a report in the Hindustan Times. According to reports, the divisional commissioner, Kashmir and principal secretary, home department, could not be reached for comment despite repeated phone calls made by the newspaper.
As per reports, the JKCCS filed the RTI to the state's home department, in which it asked for a copy of the order shut down from July 9, 2016, and a list of landline phone numbers that were shut down.
But the request was forwarded to the home department to the divisional commissioner, Kashmir's office, and reportedly said, "subject matter of information sought pertains to your department, therefore, the application is forwarded to you..."
As per reports, in a reply to the same public information officer of the divisional commissioner's office, Noor Mohammad, wrote that "no such order was issued by this office regarding shut down of phones, internet, mobile phones, mobile internet and landline phones from July 9, 2016".
"From the responses, it seems the state is not run by the civil administration here but by some invisible force. And people have a right to know who is these invisible forces are. They have a right to know under which law or authority are telecommunication services blocked," Khurram Parvez, activist and programme coordinator of the JKCCS, is reported to have told HT.
The ban was imposed last year following the killing of the Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani on July 8. The post-paid numbers saw their mobile internet service restored in mid-November while for pre-paid numbers it was done so at the end of January this year.
Even this year has seen similar actions taken by authorities with the state being on a boil with killings of more militants, with the last ban that was put in place was the fourth this year. And the question that has come up following these RTI responses is who are these authorities.