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Have social media restrictions been lifted in Occupied Kashmir?

After committing gross human rights violations, India is now trying to create a perception as if everything in occupied Kashmir is normal. What should Pakistan do to highlight atrocities being committed by the Indian armed forces against innocent Kashmiris?

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India is trying to create a perception as if the situation in occupied Kashmir is quite normal. In a latest development, Indian authorities on Wednesday lifted the ban on access to social media websites in occupied Kashmir.

People in the region will now be allowed unrestricted 2G internet access. In addition, internet services will also be available on landline connections. However, this permission will be granted after verification.

According to a notification, internet speed shall be restricted to 2G, post-paid SIM card holders shall continue to be provided access to the internet, these restrictions shall not be made available on pre-paid SIM cards unless verified, internet connectivity shall continue to be made available with Mac-binding.

The notification no longer includes wording about intelligence inputs indicating that social media and VPN [virtual private network] applications were being used to coordinate terror activities or upload provocative material.

Read more: Pakistan’s cause of Kashmir: The role of our friends

Meanwhile, Reuters reported that the speed restrictions on mobile internet access would remain in place till mid-March.

According to the report, Riyaz Mir, managing director of CNS Infotec, a private internet provider in Srinagar, said he had restored access to social media and all other websites on his networks.

Meanwhile, AFP reported that within an hour of lifting the ban, social media sites like Twitter and Facebook were abuzz with users posting messages of relief. “After 7 months, we are glad to connect with you online,” a women’s legal help group, Kashmir Women’s Collective, wrote on Twitter. “Our work on ground never stopped. We faced multiple challenges but our drive our courage from women who even in these hard times reached out to us, sharing with us the warmth and strength.”

India had clamped communications blackout in occupied Jammu and Kashmir on Aug 5 last year after stripping the disputed region of its special status and placed it under a military lockdown.

It is important to note that India is on its way to becoming a Hindu extremist state. Since the electoral win of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, the country has been undergoing a massive socio-political change and moving towards an extremist Hindu state. Media reports suggest that freedom is under threat in India where secular values are being replaced with extremist Hindu ideologies where religious minorities enjoy little space to practice their religious teachings.

Read more: Social media turned red in solidarity with Kashmiris

Muslims are the most vulnerable target to the extremists in India who offer them two options; become Hindu or leave the country. “First, a campaign was launched to convert religious minorities to Hinduism. The right-wing groups called it ‘home-coming.’ Now, they are demanding bans on certain books and beef-eating. Those who don’t listen to these groups are being targeted every now and then,” Rakesh Batabyal, an associate professor at the Centre for Media Studies in New Delhi, told an international media outlet.

Human Rights Violations in Kashmir

Pakistan has been making all possible efforts to highlight the state of human rights in Indian occupied Kashmir where innocent Kashmiris are being targeted. Earlier, Prime Minister Imran Khan had called upon the United Nations Human Rights Council to immediately set up an independent investigation commission to probe human rights abuses in occupied Kashmir as recommended in the two OHCHR reports on the disputed territory.

A report was also issued by the UN expressing severe reservations over human rights violations in the valley. The report of the United Nations’ Office of High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) on Kashmir concluded that the situation in India occupied Kashmir is worst. Christine Chung, one of the authors of the report was invited to the event by the sub-committee.

Read more: Social Media banned in Kashmir: Indian desperation to stop protests

It is worth noting here that the OHCHR issued its first-ever report on the situation in Kashmir June 14, 2018. The report highlights the protests after the martyrdom of Burhan Wani in 2016 and the brutal use of pellet guns against protesters among the human rights violations in Indian-held Kashmir. The report noted that Indian armed forces not only use force indiscriminately but also rape and humiliate Kashmiri women. A member of the European Parliament also called on India “to end violence against women & children in IOK. Voices of Kashmiri women & children must be heard.”

The international community has raised its concerns over the brutalities being committed by India. Recently, the European Parliament stood up for the people of Kashmir. “Members of the European Parliament called on India to immediately put a halt to its atrocities in Indian Occupied Kashmir and carry out investigations into the incidents of grave human rights violations.”

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