November 2019 News

'Curbs In J&K Unconstitutional'

7 November 2019
The Hindu
Mini Muringatheri

Thrissur: The curbs on all connectivity in Jammu and Kashmir after scrapping of its special status under Article 370 is illegal and unconstitutional, Anuradha Bhasin, Executive Editor of Kashmir Times has said. Speaking to The Hindu on the sidelines of ViBGYOR Documentary and Short Film Festival here on Thursday, Ms. Bhasin, who has been on a legal battle against curbs on connectivity in Jammu and Kashmir, said the media had been deprived of all their tools by shutting down mobile phone, landline, and Internet services. 'We have been witnessing these challenges of communication restrictions for the past three decades. But it has never been so drastic. They claim that Internet services have been shut down to prevent terrorist activities,' she said. Almost 10 million people in the Kashmir valley and Muslim-dominated districts of Jammu had been cut off from the rest of the world. Functioning of media was in limbo. The Kashmir Media Centre opened by the government was the only way to transmit news. But there were only three computers, that too with pathetically slow Internet service, for the 200-odd journalists. There was no other access for information or no way to verify credibility of news. No editorials The newspapers were still coming out without editorials or opinion columns. Many mainstream newspapers had been shut down. Some were coming up with pamphlets or just a few pages. They had been filling space with health tips, lifestyle features, or weather reports. Though the authorities had been claiming that restriction were withdrawn, movement of journalists was still restricted. 'Media persons have been constantly targeted. Their vehicles are often seized. Reporting is impeded as transportation is still a problem. The government has been trying to choke the financial sources of the media,' she said. Movement of journalists was being watched. Phones and emails were being scrutinised. There had been severe breach of rights and freedom of the press. Journalists who covered protests had been beaten up. 'At least 18-19 journalists have been killed in the last 30 years. Many have been jailed. Journalists who cover grass-roots human rights issues have been targeted and accused of terrorist connections,' she said. Young people in Kashmir were being brought up in discrimination and unrest. New Delhi had been manipulating the politics of J&K for their political gain. Terrorism did not flourish in J&K owing to special status to the State. It developed because of lack of democracy and manipulation of politics, she noted. All dissenting voices, including activists, stone pelters, right activists, and even mainstream politicians had been put in the same bracket and were being arrested. The Centre had made Kashmir a total police State, totally under surveillance. 'Whoever speaks against the scrapping of Article 370 are being arrested,' she said. The Centre claimed that the abrogation of Article 370 would bring development. In the last three months, businesses such as the apple trade and IT industry suffered huge losses of around Rs 10,000 crore. 'All human development parametres of Kashmir, like life expectancy and women's education, are better than of many other parts of India, including that of Gujarat. If things continue like this, we fear the situation will become worse. The ground is fertile for outburst,' Ms. Bhasin added.

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