The Jammu and Kashmir administration on Wednesday justified its decision to restrict 4G internet services in the Valley, saying the right to access the internet is not a fundamental right, The Indian Express reported. It made the statement while responding to a plea in the Supreme Court, seeking directions to restore 4G internet services in the Union Territory in view of the coronavirus crisis.
The government in its affidavit said that the internet is being used by terror handlers in Pakistan to “support fallacious proxy wars”. It further justified the ban saying “the type and breadth of access for exercising the right to freedom of speech and expression” and to carry on any trade or business through the internet can be curtailed in the interest of security of the state.
Now that the restrictions on use of social media have been eased, if speed is not limited to 2G, the high-speed internet will enable the spread of any fake news or rumours, the government said. “[The] transfer of heavy data files [audio/video files] will become prevalent which may be utilized by terror outfits for incitement as also in planning attacks,” it added.
In March, the Jammu and Kashmir administration had revoked the ban on social media nearly seven months after it was put in place when the Centre stripped the region of its special status in August 2019. Until then, the administration had allowed usage of 2G internet speed, and access was granted to only whitelisted websites.
The affidavit filed by Shaleen Kabra, principal secretary in the home department, said the curbs on internet speed were necessary as it “considerably restricts” the use of messaging applications by “Pakistan-based terrorist handlers” to instigate youth to join militancy.
The administration also pointed out that the misuse of data services and applications such as WhatsApp and Facebook has the potential to cause large-scale violence, disturb public order and “indeed, threaten the security of the country”.
It added that services such as Voice Over IP or encrypted messaging that are utilised for infiltration via the Line of Control depend on high-speed internet.
“Current discourses of social media campaigns infer that Pakistan handles are aiming to incite violence amongst college and university students,” the affidavit said. “High-speed internet services [4G] decrease the time of circulation of various photographs, videos, propaganda audios and hence enable the associated content to go viral, with the reaction time of law enforcement agencies to such situations decreasing.”
The administration said “steps taken against the misuse of mobile data services which are prevalent in other parts of the country may not be practical and definitely not suffice in case of Jammu and Kashmir”.
Stating that only “least restrictive” measures are in place, it added that “even when internet services were restored only with whitelisted URLs, it was found that miscreants were using different VPNs but because of low speed mobile data services, were not able to upload files of heavy data containing incriminating and other objectionable videos”.