By Farhana Qazi
Most people I know would go crazy if they had to live in a place without full-time access to the Internet. But this is exactly what is happening in Indian-occupied Kashmir, where local residents–especially in the southern region–are constantly threatened with media blackout, Internet shutdowns, and curfews in the name of “national security.” That’s a buzz word for “chasing terrorists.” Yes, there are some militants, but most are imagined. Which is why innocent civilians are trapped in a never-ending conflict.
In a valley of extreme censorship, it’s really hard to know if the Army is chasing a die-hard terrorist or a civilian opposing Army rule.
And there’s a difference.
Outside of the news media, I know from locals in Kashmir how difficult life has become living under a police-military “state.” (Kashmiris continue to demand their own country and nation-state status.)
To most outside observers, the valley is defined by houseboats on Dal Lake, pristine snow-capped mountains, and fields of gold-purple saffron in the month of October. But that’s only the landscape.
Underneath a cobalt blue sky are a people, breathtakingly beautiful and extremely hospitable. And some of them are running out of patience with the Army.
Generations of Kashmiris have been living like this–their lives in limbo as political elites and a majestic military make arbitrary decisions.
It’s no wonder the youth are restive and some hold onto revolutionary slogans of freedom; they want the freedom to go to work and study in school; they want to make phone calls or use the Internet to stay connected. Kashmiris have the right to communicate via Whats App, Facebook, Twitter, Tumbler, etc.
Kashmiris just want their lives uninterrupted by the Army’s campaign of chasing alleged terrorists.
Without the Internet, life comes to a halt in places like Kashmir. We live in a time of connections, and when Kashmiris lose phone / Internet service, they are forced into isolation–separated from the global community for short or long periods. Even a 24 hour shutdown can be maddening for a people who need to be in constant touch–and to let the world know what is actually happening in the valley.
Honestly, I can’t imagine living like that.