Ban! Ban! Ban! From beef to internet, India seems to be running in a marathon of bans, or rather, aiming to get its name recorded in the Guinness Book of World Record for the most banned country. Whatever her aspirations, they cannot be fulfilled at the cost of Kashmir. In another tragedy of errors, as the days to embark on a journey to the United States (US), and more importantly to the Silicon Valley, approached, the Narendra Modi-led Government at the Centre in India, and the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) – the coalition partner with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Jammu and Kashmir, imposed e-curfew in the state, starting for three days, starting from September 23, 2015.
In his second visit to the US in the last twelve months, Narendra Modi during his visit to Silicon Valley expressed his desire to advance his ‘Digital India’ vision, first by shutting down internet services for 76 hours in Kashmir, and second, by royally ignoring the reactions condemning this shut down. And once again, Kashmir bore the brunt of narcissism. This time too it was virtual militarism, where there the PDP-BJP alliance imposed e-curfew in the state to restrict the sharing of Eidul Adha celebrations from this part of the world in its larger (in)security program.
Every festival and every holiday further strengthens the fact that the people of Kashmir live under siege, not only restricting celebrations in the virtual world, but also accentuating the sentiments of alienation, isolation and anger. As the political elite in Kashmir colludes with the right-wing government in India, the gap between the two regions widens.
Modi’s chest-thumping ‘achievements’ should include beef ban in predominantly beef eating community, thus diving the state on communal lines, and e-curfew during his high-profile visit to the Silicon Valley, which he announced would focus on “startups, innovation and technology and how to further support them in India.” Adding to this was the threat given by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), the culturally aggressive force of the right wing brigade, on September 19, 2015, to impose economic blockade of Valley in case beef ban law was revoked. To this, the business community of Kashmir retaliated with anger and warned that they would end business ties indefinitely with Jammu traders if the blockade takes place. Not succumbing to the pressure created by the culturally hostile VHP and offering an alternative, President of Kashmir Traders and Manufactures Federation (KTMF) and chairman of Kashmir Economic Alliance (KEA), Yasin Khan said loud and clear, “…We want them [Jammu business community] to go public on the issue and their silence will be taken as acceptance to the designs of communal forces…if the situation arises they would use traditional Muzaffarabad-Srinagar route for their business activities.”
Ironically, the internet ban was imposed as a ‘precautionary measure’ in view of apprehensions of misuse of the services by miscreants to create communal tension. This imposition came a few days after the VHP controversy on beef ban, which was explicitly communal. While the hate-mongers, like the VHP, remain free to work with their venomous communal fangs, the common man of Kashmir is chained and restricted to the fundamental freedom of practicing his faith and faith related rituals.
As Modi lectured the world powers and the tech-hub on the connected digital India, the 10 million Kashmiri population remained totally disconnected and stranded with e-curfew, which, as seen in the past, New Delhi imposes on a drop of the hat. I appeal to Mr. Modi that for all the troubles brewing up inside India, Kashmir doesn’t have to be held responsible. For everything trivial, Kashmir becomes the scapegoat. Why doesn’t New Delhi act against the parochial and communal elements like the VHP that operate freely inside the urban cities of India, spreading hatred on religious lines?
As others live with apprehensions and insecurities, the people in Kashmir voice their discontentment and engender new hope – that the real power lies with the people who a day prior to the internet blackout went on an internet rampage with the hash tag #EidWithoutInternet.
(Adil Bhat studies English Literature from Delhi University)