Govt comes under sharp criticism for blanket ban on internet services


Mohinder Verma

JAMMU, Sept 26: The blanket ban on all sorts of internet services by the PDP-BJP Coalition Government has come under sharp criticism from cross section of the society, which has dubbed the decision as a step towards putting a permanent label of disturbed State on the Jammu and Kashmir at a time when efforts are being made to attract more tourists from different parts of the India and foreign countries to the State.

Moreover, the business houses have suffered losses worth crores of rupees due to this unwarranted decision and they have accused the Government of resorting to harsh decision in order to cover up its failure to ensure rule of law to prevail.

The ban order has been dubbed as uncalled for by all the members of the civil society including lawyers, academicians, student community besides leaders of various political parties, who even questioned the criminal silence maintained by the BJP Ministers particularly on the extension of ban in peaceful Jammu province.

Chamber of Commerce and Industries (CCI), Jammu president Rakesh Gupta said, “the blanket ban on the internet services has brought whole of the State to standstill”, adding “this decision has caused loss of crores of rupees to the business houses as in the present era of digitalization majority of the business activities are carried out through internet”.

“No on-line bills could be generated during the past two days and even huge number of vehicles have been stranded at Lakhanpur for clearance, which is also done online by cross checking vital documents of the businessmen through internet”, he said, adding “the ban has forced the businessmen to pay two days extra carriage charges in respect of the vehicles stranded at Lakhanpur for clearance”.

Questioning the justification of imposing ban on internet services, the CCI president said, “this reflects the ineffectiveness of the Police Department as instead of ensuring rule of law to prevail, the department advised the Government to impose ban on internet services so that its failure to rein in anti-social and anti-national elements in Kashmir valley does not come in public domain”.

“Moreover, by imposing ban on internet services Government has sent a message that J&K is still a disturbed State and this would have adverse impact on the inflow of tourists”, Mr Gupta said, adding “the Government has defeated its efforts of attracting tourists to J&K by conducting road-shows in different parts of the country recently”.

National Conference provincial president and MLA from Nagrota, Devender Singh Rana, said, “the ban on the internet services in Jammu province is totally uncalled for and unprecedented”, adding “the situation in Jammu province didn’t warrant such a harsh gag order”.

“The shutting down of the internet facility to the media houses is more deplorable as it is a covert way of imposing undeclared media censorship which cannot be justified in any democracy”, Mr Rana further said. Where are those in PDP and BJP, who over the last many decades have been the self declared champions of freedom of Press, the National Conference provincial president asked.

Senior Congress leader and former Minister, Sham Lal Sharma said, “the ban has clearly established that those at the helm of affairs in the State are not interested in free flow of democracy. Moreover, they are not ready to allow rule of law to prevail”.

“Instead of allowing rule of law to prevail, the PDP-BJP Government chose to cover up its failure by imposing such a ban”, he said, adding “the decision is an onslaught on freedom of speech and expression as even media houses have not been spared by this ineffective Government”.

Stating that by this uncalled for decision the Government has given a wrong signal country-wide, Mr Sham said, “a message has gone everywhere in the country that all is not well in Jammu and Kashmir”, adding “unfortunately due to the criminal silence maintained by the BJP Ministers, even wrong impression has gone about the Jammu province and people outside the State have started thinking that Jammu is also a disturbed area like Kashmir valley”.

“It is pity that BJP, which came to power by winning seats from Jammu province, didn’t utter any word when decision about extension of internet ban in this part of the State was taken”, the former Minister said, adding “during Congress-led Government no such order was ever issued and we always fought with our coalition partner on the interests of Jammu region”.

Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party (JKNPP) senior leader and former Minister, Harsh Dev Singh said, “by this order, the Government has tried to cover up its failure on ensuring law and order in Kashmir valley”, adding “apprehending that it would not be able to check hoisting of Pakistan and IS flags besides violation of High Court order on beef that this inefficient Government decided to impose ban on internet services”.

“Instead of ensuring rule of law to prevail by tightening noose around inefficient Police Department, this Government decided to cover up its failure, which is very unfortunate”, former Minister said.

How this Government can justify losses to business community, common masses and media houses? he asked, adding “there was no justification behind bringing Jammu province and media houses under the purview of this blanket ban”.

President of Jammu and Kashmir High Court Bar Association, Advocate Abhinav Sharma too expressed concern over blanket ban on internet services and said, “what message this step would send across the country should have been pondered upon by the Government before taking such a harsh decision”.

How would the Government ensure that the objectionable contents are not posted on social media sites following lifting of ban remains a million dollar question.




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