Groping for the restoration of peace in a restive Kashmir, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti-led government, on April 26, imposed the first-ever ban on social media networking sites for a month on the basis that “anti-national and inimical elements were spreading unverified objectionable and inflammatory material” through these platforms.
The Home department invoked a British-era law, Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, to ban transmission of messages or pictures through as many as 22 websites including Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, QQ, WeChat, Qzone, Tumblr, Google+, Baidu, Skype, Viber, Line, Snapchat, Pinterest, Telegram, Reddit, Snapfish, YouTube (Upload), Vine, Xanga, Buzznet, and Flickr.
The ban comes at a time when the government has already suspended high-speed 3G and 4G connectivity in the Valley on mobile internet, apart from previous blanket bans. This ban mocks at Prime Minister Narendra Modis flagship Digital India, with people claiming that they are unable to process even their e-transactions.
The news about the ban on social media spread like a wildfire with users struggling to bid farewell on their favorite platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Within moments, the social media was flooded with parting remarks before the link was blocked.
Apart from taking a dig at the Mufti family for imposing the ban on “right to freedom of expression”, the netizens looked for alternatives to overcome the gag, with many sharing their email IDs and phone numbers to be in touch.
Terming the gag as “NetBandi”, former bureaucrat-turned-politician Khawaja Farooq Renzu Shah says that it would badly affect tourism as potential tourists would shy away from coming to such a place.
While some like Mian Sajjad joked that to avail Reliance Jio offer on high-speed connectivity, affected subscribers should leave for the Pirpanjal range in Banihal, which is some 100 miles Srinagar at the border of Jammu and Kashmir region and is exempted from the ban, many of the netizens questioned as why Jammu was excluded from the gag.
One of the netizens started his post with lyrics “Acha Chalta Hun Duan Mein Yeh Rakhna” from the Ranbir Kapoor starrer blockbuster Ae Dil Hai Mushkil and concluded with some nasty remarks about late Mufti Muhammad Sayeed.
Ironically, since the eruption of unrest in summer of 2016, most of the casualties took place during the blanket ban on the internet. Also, recently, on April, 9, the day Srinagar went for Parliament by-polls, there was already a total ban on the internet but that didn’t prevent eight civilians from being killed during the protests.