Today, the entire world is suffering and collapsing, owing to our biggest enemy — COVID-19.
Residents of most countries, including India, are now stuck in their homes and confined to restricted areas and limits. Although we were compelled legally to do so, we didn’t even care to question or oppose it since COVID-19 has left us all alarmed and petrified.
Thus, we tend to curse the circumstances that led to this, keep on blaming the country that paved the path to this pandemic. We loathe our fellow beings for the smallest things possible; for instance, reprimanding them for going abroad at the wrong time.
We’re exaggerating a lot, talking about the inconvenience of being stuck at home, where we sleep, surf, eat, watch Netflix, and repeat. A real struggle, isn’t it? Most of us are dying to be granted freedom, to roam, enjoy the outside world, and just gadabout.
What if we were trapped inside our houses, treated with hostility, devoid of all services like the internet, and even calling services? Sounds inadmissible, doesn’t it? Being quarantined for some months sounds like a very tedious and long task, but is rather a ‘penny ante’ when compared to the plight of the people in Jammu and Kashmir.
Have we been so consumed by ourselves that we don’t care about their condition and never-ending misery? The attack on May 2, in Jammu and Kashmir, in which a Colonel, Major and 5 other soldiers were martyred, drew my attention to the area and the people’s constant affliction, and I want to shed some light on it.
I came across some podcasts on social media earlier this year, of local residents who shared their experiences. A tax consultant said that in order to get a couple of minutes of the internet, he had to cover a journey of several hours from Kashmir to Banihal. To add to one’s trouble, after a tedious journey for the internet, the speed offered is maddening.
An accountant adds that it takes half an hour for a webpage to load, and all this at the cost of ₹250–300 per hour by almost every cyber café. A student from Kupwara district said that he had to travel 500 kms to Banihal for two consecutive days and his work was still pending.
The local café owner in Banihal said that around 1,000–2,000 students appear daily from distant locations for different purposes, like scholarship forms, NEET, license applications, and more. But, only 200–300 students manage to fill the forms, and the rest leave disappointed.
Such instances are suggestive of the common vexation faced by the people. This piece of news had moved me ever since, but I forgot about it amidst my life’s daily chores. Now that I am being subjected to restrictions myself, I empathize with Jammu and Kashmir and longed to record personal experiences of residents over there, to gather first-hand information.
Luckily, a friend of mine has an acquaintance/relative in Jammu. I had a little chat with him over the phone regarding the same. Prateek (name changed), a boy of 12th standard, revealed that high-speed internet data service has been denied since August 2019. It’s been a year. Sometimes he requests and pays a neighbour of his to avail their Wi-Fi for a few minutes when in need since he cannot afford extensively high rates of broadband services in Jammu and Kashmir.
He said that over there, multiple strikes happen too often on various accounts (like Section 144, Pulwama attack, 2019), and whenever there’s a strike, a curfew is imposed. They are forbidden from stepping out, calling services are suspended, and the internet is cut off too, time and again.
When any sort of militant attack takes place, such curfews are put in place, leaving no source of communication and basic services. All this is then justified in the name of shielding confidential details, and to keep the information of the state from spreading.
Students suffer the most. Prateek said that online classes are on, but it is just for show because even when there’s no curfew, the speed of the internet offered is less than 2G and completely useless.
I’m not speaking for or against any particular state, community, or government. I’m speaking for people like you and me, and against the denial of their basic human rights. A nation is like a parent to its citizens. So tell me, is dissent against one’s parents wrong?