By Junaid Dar,

New Delhi: In Kashmir, internet blockade might have brought families together, but it has pushed students away from their dreams.

Support TwoCircles

It has been more than two months since internet service was blocked in Kashmir. The communication blackout was partially restored last week when the government passed an order to restore all postpaid services in the valley and this move came as a “surprise” for the Kashmiris. However, Kashmiris still can’t check emails and social media handles to speak with friends. This strategy was planned by the Union and State administration to avoid backlash from the people who stood against the government order to end the Special status by Scrapping articles 370 and 35A. They said it was applied to maintain law and order in the region.

At a time of Digital India, people in Kashmir can’t even withdraw their money manually by a promissory note in Kashmir. “I had received many promissory notes from my clients, but due to complete shutdown and closure of banks, I couldn’t withdraw that money and no one accepts smart cards without internet,” Ahtisham, while narrating his story, told

“Digital India is confined to election rallies and ‘jumlas’,” he added.

People are facing a lot of problems related to money transactions. Some people have in fact travelled to Delhi to deposit fees for their kith and kin studying in different countries.

The education sector has suffered a lot in Kashmir due to the shutdown. Most students failed to fill their application forms to appear in different examinations. Students who couldn’t bear education expenses and rely on scholarships were unable to apply this year. Some of them called it a deliberate move by the authorities to keep Kashmiri students away from a good education and a secure future.

Imtiyaz, who wants to pursue a PhD in Journalism narrated how the internet affected his plans. “I missed the NET (National Eligibility Test) since I couldn’t fill because of internet lockdown in the valley. I don’t even have an idea about the last date for submitting the form,” he said. In the past, some students were unable to appear in the NET exams because they were allotted centres outside Kashmir.

“Last year the University Grants Commission (UGC) allotted centres to Kashmiri students outside Kashmir which made it a very costly proposition for us,” Imtiyaz said.

A return to books and conversations

A rather surprising result of the internet lockdown is that it has brought Kashmiris out of the virtual world. People have once again started spending time with their families and friends. Physical interaction has revived and people fought the trauma by meeting relatives and reading books. The tradition of family discussions which stretches for hours has returned to homes. People have resorted to discussions in groups that were gone by the advent of the internet.

“In the absence of the internet, I started reading more and more, and In the last two months I completed more than five books, which are related to Kashmir history, some books were crafted well and based on real facts while most of the books don’t talk of reality” Imtiyaz, who now wants to write a book on Kashmir, said.

“If you don’t know the history of any place, you should avoid writing about it, some writers have badly tarnished the image of Kashmir and Kashmiris,” he added, pointing towards the non-locals writers he added.

Online news platforms which work independently faced a drastic downfall after August 5. Internet is a lifeline for online media organizations, but by snatching the internet, they have been destroyed. “We started with an aim to give voice to voiceless but after snatching internet here, we have become voiceless,” Muheet-ul-Islam, editor of PostCard Kashmir digital platform said.

People from different states of India who have their relatives and friends in Kashmir are worried about the Kashmir. Video call which most of the people in Kashmir prefer over the normal call to talk and check the well being of their loved ones seems an impossible thing to get back.

“My daughter is in the USA. Before the internet blockade, we used to see her daily but after the internet shutdown, I have not seen her though we did speak after landlines were restored,” said Showkat, a resident.

There are many parents like Showkat in Kashmir who haven’t seen the face of their children after 5 August and possibly the story is the same for everyone.

“In modern times, you can easily shut voices that are against you. Just suspend the internet and you can’t hear anything against the system. Internet and technology have connected us globally, and isolation from it is an easy mechanism employed by the establishment to suppress the voice of dissent,” said Salman, a Kashmiri student.

“For us, general knowledge comes from books which you find in bookstalls which are out-of-date. We don’t have any idea of what is happening in the outside world. Now we want to live with our friends and families because we never know “what next” they will do to feed their selective conscience,” said one of the youth from Kashmir looking for better tomorrow when asked about life without the internet in Kashmir.

Kashmiris living outside Kashmir have started many online campaigns asking authorities to end restrictions on communication in Kashmir. Everyone is watching curiously how much time it will take for the government with a vision of “Digital India” to end its crackdown on the internet in Kashmir.