Students suffering in J&K

Internet Shutdown

Hakim Singh
In an era of information life takes backseat when there is an abrupt shutdown of internet. The various studies related to usage of internet facility in academics clearly reflect its relation to academic performance. It has a great impact on academic research and teaching learning process. Most importantly, in the universities both mentor and scholar are largely dependent on it to complete their thesis. They have to browse on Google and various search engines to collect the material so that they may select their research problem genuinely. After selecting their research topics they continuously have to use internet to complete the different steps of their research journey. Since the selection of topic, review of literature, writing of chapters to conclusion a researcher has to use internet regularly. A big delay can be seen in their research work like writing synopsis, reviewing literature, submitting progress reports, collecting data and submitting the dissertations/thesis. It also affects the other student communities studying in universities or colleges as they are also very much dependent on internet to overcome the shortcomings of classroom teaching and printed books.
Can we feel the magnitude of pain of those researchers whose works are related to social media/networking, internet usage or mass communication in the absence of internet? Have not these students become totally inactive and passive throughout the period of this unreasonable restriction? And is this not an attempt to destroy their career when the Government is not even thinking of restoring the internet in the region.
Since August 5, the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir is debarred from internet facility which has effected the whole internet user community in general and researchers/students in particular. To what extent the ban on internet facility has harmed the student’s learning needs a thorough survey at the end of their exams or comparative analysis of the results between pre and post internet ban period. In case of researchers it has affected very badly. Many of researchers at the edge of completion could not submit their work, some were unable to start their work after completion of their course work and some unable to submit the synopsis due to lack of internet facility since last two months.
“In the region, every person is not a regular student of educational institutions and every educational institution does not provide internet facility, within internet providing educational institution some may get the facility and other may not; moreover, there are institutions which provide internet facility to only scholars (i.e. Jammu University) and in case of providing to all (i.e. Central University of Jammu and Kashmir), the students may only use it for working hours, so students are dependent on other affordable internet network (mobile phones) and are immensely affected by current internet shutdown”
The lack of electronic library to access the journals easily from the scientific database and inefficient cybercafé, and lack of universal internet facility within the campuses specifically newly established universities were some main issues discouraging the students within their institutions. Before the internet shutdown, students used to find ways. Most of them rely on their Smartphone/handsets to access the internet facility through subscription from other internet providers (JIO Sims Network) outside their educational institutions. The stoppage of internet has prevented them to perform research ahead of time, tackle multiple tasks and increase the scope of self reading/ learning.
Despite of popular sloganeering of digital India of the PM of India the Government put blockade on internet to hamper the significant empirical research outcomes for students, researchers and teachers. If the implementation of ICT was believed to modify and affect human behavior academically, how this important fact was overlooked while announcing internet shutdown in J&K. While studying in newly established universities or institution how can a student or scholar deal with an exploration of online studies and different pool of knowledge in the absence of basic infrastructure. Additionally, the recent internet restriction has badly added into the frustration among students who were already angry due to slow internet speed, lack of computer terminals, information overload etc. It frustrated those the most who could not find sufficient print material in their institutional library or do not have department library. They were the students who regularly access the internet facilities on their smart phones for educational and communication purposes.
Few people at university level may access or use the internet through their university digital centre but majority need other sources outside the campus in case of not enjoying hostel facility. In some cases university digital centre as a source of availing internet facility was also breakdown. One example is Jammu University wherein the scholars were not even allowed to use the campus WIFI on the account of negative impact on their research work and development. This was done to address some miscreants which ultimately became reason for total breakdown of the WIFI connectivity to the scholars.
The unavailability of facility in Jammu and Kashmir also prevents the students from using their portable devices to exchange education-related messages and academic files with classmates, search the internet and library databases for academic materials, practice online quizzes or tests and hold discussions with classmates. Continuing with this restriction, the students are unable to consult the scholarly articles and research papers to prepare for their exams and assignments.
The effect doesn’t end here but also has hampered scholar’s participation into the day to day academic seminars and conferences as he or she cannot get the notification related to these events. They have become inactive in participating the seminars and conferences and publishing their research works. Describing the present political disturbance in the Jammu and Kashmir, an interaction with students and scholars highlighted that they are facing break in enhancing social relationship in their academic field. They are unable to visit the official sites of educational institutions advertizing for recruitment, when UGC has notified for immediate filling of all vacant posts in all the universities.
In Jammu and Kashmir, since the passage of new bill to abrogate its special status there has been total breakdown of internet facility in the state- now divided into two separate Union Territories. Will shutting down the internet or communication for uncertain period solve the problem? The good intentions of Government towards the region can be materialized through taking the majority into the confidence and by isolating the minority that disturbs the peace – as claimed by the Government. The Government may claim to counter the sponsoring of terrorism and militancy in the region, but should it be expressed through curtailing liberties of the common people.
To what extent stoppage of internet and communication is justified when there is a talk on global village, information society and complete integration of people. How can full integration of Jammu and Kashmir be realized when people of this side are unable to communicate their people living outside this erstwhile state? For instance, the Government ban on internet closed all the doors for easy access to many resources and information sharing. Eventually, it has disabled the access to global sources of information, discussion and sharing of experiences to the all in general and academicians in the region particularly. Though, it has not affected everyone in same way, and its impact may even differ from person to person due to difference in their position and work nature, but it has affected the whole academic community very deeply.
(The author is a Research Scholar, Department of PP&PA, Central University of Jammu)