Supreme Court ruling on J&K internet generates hope

Jammu and Kashmir

Srinagar: In Jammu & Kashmir there is optimism after the Supreme Court gave a ruling on Friday asking the government to review the internet ban in Kashmir calling it a part of freedom of speech.

Business circles in Kashmir say the Supreme Court ruling would eventually pave the way for the restoration of internet in the valley and kickstarting the stalled businesses.

“We welcome the Supreme Court ruling,” Sheikh Ashiq, President, Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry told IANS. “We are hopeful that the government will restore the internet without any delay now.”

The KCCI has published a report which said around five lakh jobs were lost in Kashmir due to the internet gag and lockdown following the repealing of Article 370 on August 5.

Internet was suspended all across Jammu & Kashmir ahead of the revocation of Article 370. While the ban on internet hasn’t been lifted in the Kashmir valley, internet has been completely restored in Ladkah. In Jammu the broadband was restored while the mobile internet continues to remain suspended.

Syed Ashfaq, a Kashmir-based financial analyst, who was forced to retrench most of his staff and curtail his business due to the internet ban said government should make a distinction between internet and social media.

“We welcome the Supreme Court ruling, if there are any security concerns let the government suspend social media, why is internet on the whole being curtailed,” Ashfaq said.

“On one hand the government says that it wants to bring in investors to the Kashmir valley but on the other hand local businessmen are made to suffer due to the internet gag, the two things just don’t add up.”

He said that lakhs of people in Kashmir have lost jobs due to the internet shutdown and businesses would find it tough to revive even after internet is restored.

“It will take me at least two years to restart my business after the internet is restored.” Ashfaq said.

Rakesh Gupta, President, Jammu Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the ruling doesn’t give any immediate relief to the people of Jammu & Kashmir.

He said the government has already been reviewing the security situation from time to time even before the court ruling.

“This is a vague order, there should be more clarity about the restoration of internet,” Gupta told IANS. “Internet is not a luxury but a necessity in today’s times.”

Faiz Ahmad Bakshi, Convenor, Environmental Policy Group, a non-profit organisation for conservation of environment, said the real test is in the implementation of the Supreme Court ruling.

“It is a welcome step but it is for the government to implement the court ruling,” Bakshi told IANS.

But dismissing the ruling Iltija Mufti, daughter of former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, said it has taken five months for the court to say that “internet is a fundamental right”.

“I am disappointed, I had expected the court to pull up the government,” Iltija Mufti told IANS. “All Kashmiris are not jihadists.”

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