The flip side of “Internet Ban”
Internet down again. (May be not today but this line has become all too familiar with us now) the Djin is bottled back. Everything shall remain in peace, the assumption goes. With every flutter of a bird, Internet becomes casualty. The lines are so fragile that sound of a sneeze by the person in-charge of deciding whether this privilege be given to people or not would snap connections. The Djin is scary so are its handlers. Monster in the shape of Internet has assumed gargantuan proportions in the eyes of those who have their fingers on its toggle button. They zip up and zip down from 4G to 3G to 2G to complete snap-down with number of stones in the hands of pelters, with every sound of a bullet that echoes in valley, with every drop of blood that falls on the soil of Kashmir, with the intensity of assumed anger amongst masses, with the statements made by politicians, with the calendars issued by those whom they pronounce irrelevant or sometimes even with every fiery prime time discussion on television meant to demonize and abuse a Kashmiri.
Fair enough. Let the Djin's be bottled, but many questions remain unanswered. If only five percent of population are trouble mongers, why is 95% population subjected to the gag? If we assume 95% of population is scared of 5% who misuse Internet, these 95% would not respond to their provocations nor would misuse Internet, then why should they be blocked in the process? If those who issue calendars are irrelevant and have no takers why does the blockade of internet follow every call on Hartal, Chalo or even peaceful protest schedules they issue? If there are no human right violations happening and enough care is taken that nothing happens that could become a reason of embarrassment, why to fear the circulation of videos or pictures circulated through internet. Why should internet be banned fearing it might become a medium to transpire something that does not exist.
Internet connectivity is, in fact, the tool that could be used to normalize charged up atmospheres. The youth between age of 18 and 28 use internet for the purposes that keep them connected with the world, good things happening in the world around them, knowledge bank available at their finger tips, wide range of entertainment spanning from having girlfriends to online games to enhancing creativity aptitude to searching for opportunities of personal development and the plethora of matters that keep them busy with. With every snap down, this youth is rendered idle and idle man's mind is the workshop that caters to all kinds of negative thoughts, manifestations of which are frustration, aggression and the confused commotion of mental signals shaping out a normal productive mind into physical monsters. The present day youth is fashioned, by virtue of changed times, into a fast machine dealing with matters in life at lightning speed. He is not ready to wait and squander his youth on the whims of his rulers. He is charged and rebels with fierce ferocity. He doesn't like reading books or sitting with friends on roadside or playing in the neighborhood fields or gossiping about political matters in physical proximity with friends. Instead he likes having everything at his finger tips, every news, every happening and every stuff of entertainment just in the palm of his hand. He prefers discussing politics and events happening in remotest corners of the world over his mobile or laptop screen. But the internet ban gives him a reason to assemble with unknown partners, move out to streets, meeting all kinds of people, interfacing with conflicting opinions and discussing politics on roads and play fields. And then breach of section 144 becomes an issue.
Imagine the mental state of a teenager who uses internet to chat with his girlfriend and is denied this facility for days together. Simultaneously denied the access to online study materials, denied online meeting points with his friends, denied exchange of fun messages, denied sharing and receiving videos that tend to envelop his anger with some exciting entertainment. Obviously, the youthful energy that the modern world, in other places, is working to focus and channelize into the positive aspects of his life and the society around him, is left to be dissipated into the multiple energies driven by anger and frustration.
On the other hand, instead of pruning connectivity, internet could be used to propagate messages that are positive, thought provoking, insightful and disseminating the true version of stories, flip side of which authorities are scared of being spread in an event internet is not banned. The rumors and gossips are far more dangerous than actual messages flowing through the medium of internet. Apart from the prospects of image demolition across the world from a nation of freedom giving to freedom choking, internet ban only reinforces an opinion of scuttled democracy in the eyes of world. Internet ban is not something that could change the scenario in Kashmir, it only belittles efforts of providing environment of building peace. It becomes a laughing theme among Kashmir watcher. It needs to be understood that uploading and disseminating content on internet is only delayed by bans, it is not controlled. Better would be to find means not to provide opportunities to record and upload the content than to put loose lids here and there. The tamed big djin is after all better than the small ghosts playing havoc.
(S.S Qadri is a post graduate in Management Studies from the University of Kashmir)