Kashmir: Want Internet agree to give up Privacy

By Junaid Kathju

Companies in Kashmir can finally restore their internet connections, which have been suspended for four months. But it will come at a cost. Theyll have to give the government a signed bond saying that internet usage will be restricted tobusiness purposes.” They must also promise to share allcontentsandinfrastructurethat they watch or use on the internet when asked bysecurity agencies.”

The bond, a copy of which this reporter has seen, consists of six points, including that no encrypted file containing any sort of videos or photos will be uploaded. Other points state thatfor the allowed IP, there will be no social networking, proxies, VPNs and Wi-Fiandthat all the USB ports will be disabled on the network.” Government officials say companies will be held responsiblefor any kind of breach and misuse of internet.”

Its the latest chapter in Kashmirs struggle for that most basic of 21st-century commodities: the internet. On Aug. 5, just hours before the Narendra Modi government revoked Jammu and Kashmir states special status and split it into two union territories, authorities had suspended all communication lines across the valley toprevent any law-and-order situation.”


Even though postpaid mobile services were restored in Kashmir on Oct. 12, internet services for common people continue to remain suspended. However, over the past week, at least 100 hotels, guesthouses, travel agencies and some government offices have had their internet restored.

The process of restoration of internet services has been started from government departments, followed by the hospitality sector,” says an official, on condition of anonymity. Government departments have had to sign a similar bond, with the head of the department to be held responsible in case of any misuse. “Whoever was allowed to use these services was asked to sign a bond taking responsibility that there will be no misuse of the facility,” the official adds. “Some of the connections of bureaucrats have also been restored.”

The clearance to restore internet connections comes from the office of the inspector general of police. Divisional Commissioner of Kashmir Baseer Khan, while acknowledging that internet has been restored in some places, also acknowledges thatall connections are being monitored.”

Meanwhile, travel and hospitality sector businesses in a recent meeting had categorically said they wont engage in any promotional campaigns unless internet services are fully restored. “We are ready to sign a bond that we will use the internet facility only for sending tour itineraries and financial transactions,” they said in a statement. “Government should ease restrictions on the internet, or else the business community, especially the tourism sector, is doomed.”

The Modi government in mid-October lifted a travel ban it had enforced on tourists visiting Kashmir. But hospitality sector executives say they cant communicate effectively with customers without the internet


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