I’m an Indian journalist who lived through Kashmir’s traumatic internet blackout, which started one year ago. Here’s what it’s like to have your freedoms ripped away for 213 days.

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On August 5, 2019, India’s Hindu nationalist government revoked the autonomy of the Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir region by scrapping Article 370, a constitutional provision that grants special status and allows the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir to make its own laws . The day before, it had cut off phone signals, mobile data, and broadband internet.
Majid Maqbool is a freelance journalist from the region and the opinions expressed are his own. He says Kashmir’s internet blackout traumatised families, devastated businesses, and cut millions of people off from the outside world. 
A year on from when 213-day blackout started, he writes about what it was like to live through — and about how the media celebrated Kashmiris’ loss of freedom.

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This week marks one year since I and seven million other Kashmiris were subjected to the longest-ever internet blackout in a democracy.

On August 4, 2019 — the day before India’s Hindu nationalist government revoked the autonomy of the Jammu and Kashmir region — mobile and landline phone signals, mobile data, and broadband internet were shut down and a curfew was announced (the government imposed another curfew this week, saying it was worried about anniversary protests).

Extra soldiers were brought in to patrol the streets and confine us to our homes. Gatherings of more than three people were banned. Hundreds of Kashmiri leaders, including ones who had long advocated that Muslim-majority Kashmir embrace its place in Hindu-majority India, were jailed under draconian laws like the Public Safety Act, that the government claims is a preventive detention law under which a person can be taken under custody in order to prevent them from acting harmfully against the security of the state in Jammu & Kashmir. 

  Religion events in the San Fernando Valley area, Sept. 19-26

The communication clampdown was meant to quell any protests. 

Hundreds of thousands of families were suddenly cut off from their loved ones, and students studying abroad couldn’t contact home. It was traumatic, and no date was given for when it might end. Meanwhile, triumphant headlines on the Indian news channels declared: “A Naya (new) Kashmir is born!” 

My parents, who are in their mid 60s, left for the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca two days before communication was cut. They couldn’t speak to us for more than a month. For the first time in my life, I couldn’t greet them on the day of Eid. Their once-in-a-lifetime experience was filled with added anxieties and worries.

About two weeks in, I reached a media centre the government set up in mid-August in a hotel in the city, where hundreds of journalists jostled to get a few minutes of internet access and file their reports on one of a dozen computers. After waiting in the queue for hours, I logged in and sent a short email to my brother, who was in UAE, telling him that we were fine and asking him about our parents, who had been calling him frequently to find out if he could somehow contact us.

I added a final line before signing off: Please tell …read more

Source:: Business Insider

      

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