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India likely to refuse Kashmir’s request to restore 4G internet

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India likely to refuse Kashmir’s request to restore 4G internet

Kasmiris protest against internet shortages
Photo: CNN

Today marks the court-ordered deadline for India’s Jammu and Kashmir administration to file its reply to a Kashmiri petition requesting the restoration of 4G internet in the territory.

In 2019, the Indian government suspended Jammu and Kashmir’s special autonomous status. The military severed communication networks and high-speed internet access in an effort to suppress protests in the Muslim-majority region, and to weaken terrorist groups like Jaish-e-Mohammed that support the territory’s integration with Pakistan. After a seven-month security lockdown followed by the ongoing COVID-19 quarantine, Kashmiri students and medical workers petitioned the Indian Supreme Court for 4G internet access.

The petitioners argue that internet access is essential to their jobs and public health efforts. Doctors, in particular, cannot download critical WHO public health guidelines on how to contain the pandemic. On the other hand, the Indian government fears that restoration will enable coordination between protesters as well as pro-Pakistan militants.

Expect India’s government to reiterate its opposition to restoring the internet connection. It is unlikely that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will back down over Kashmir, whose permanent integration into India he hopes to be part of his legacy. Instead, Modi will most likely use lockdown measures—extending into May—in order to cement his control over the territory. Anticipate further military-imposed restrictions on Kashmiri life and wider public surveillance measures exceeding the quarantine’s duration.

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