Why do you want Jammu Kashmir

Amnesty International

Summary

  • Internet access in Jammu and Kashmir has been severely restricted since the beginning of August 2019.
  • Especially now, during the coronavirus pandemic, the people of these Indian territories have the right to information and health.
  • Amnesty is urging the government to restore full access to the Internet immediately.

On March 19, 2020, the Indian government counted 166 confirmed cases in India, including four in Jammu and Kashmir. Despite the rise in the number of illnesses, on March 17 the government of Jammu and Kashmir confirmed the restrictions on the Internet, which were decided after the lifting of the special status in August 2019. In large parts of the region, the performance of the Internet remains limited to 2G. In some areas the internet is completely switched off. To slow the spread of the corona virus, the government has also closed all schools, public parks, hotels and restaurants and banned public gatherings.

"The fear of the pandemic among the people of Jammu and Kashmir is growing," said Avinash Kumar, director of Amnesty India.

Restrictions on access to information are adding to the growing panic. Shutting down or slowing down the internet makes it even more difficult for people to cope with an already difficult situation.

Avinash Kumar, Director of Amnesty India

"The government is also forfeiting the trust it needs to adequately deal with the pandemic. The Indian government must respect people's right to information and immediately lift restrictions on the Internet," continues Avinash Kumar.

The universal declaration of human rights guarantees the right to health. Public health must also be guaranteed for the most vulnerable members of society. Human rights must also be respected in the prevention and treatment of viral diseases. This includes access to health-related information and adequate health care. The World Health Organization (WHO) last recommended on March 17, 2020 that the public must be informed so that all people can take the necessary steps to protect themselves and their families. According to the WHO, the risks of a pandemic can be better assessed through access to trustworthy information. In this way, access to information counteracts possible panic reactions.

People in Jammu and Kashmir have the right to information about the current crisis surrounding COVID-19. You have a right to know how to protect yourself and what the government is doing to contain the virus. Only in this way can people react appropriately and make the right decisions to protect them. Restricting access to information increases fear, anger, and frustration; this is detrimental to the protection of personal and public health. These restrictions can even amount to a violation of human rights.

"The situation around the coronavirus is constantly developing. The responsible authorities must immediately lift the restrictions on the Internet so that people can inform themselves and behave adequately. Efforts to contain the coronavirus must not involve a lack of transparency, censorship and possible violations of human rights go hand in hand, "says Avinash Kumar.

BACKGROUND

In August 2019, the government lifted the special status of Jammu and Kashmir as guaranteed in Article 370 of the Indian Constitution and split the state into two union territories. Before and after that, crackdowns against civil liberties, increased militarization, a breakdown in communications and the imprisonment of important politicians took place across the region. The restrictions imposed by the government prevented journalists and activists from independently documenting and reporting on the situation, including alleged human rights violations. Access to emergency services, health care, education and other care services was severely restricted.

While numerous communication services such as telephone, cellular communications and SMS were restored, the Internet remained switched off. The Kashmir Valley recorded half of all internet shutdowns in India, the country with the highest number of Internet shutdowns in the world.