If today the world has been reduced to a small village, much of it has been due to the amazing advances of communication technology effected around the internet. So vital this facilitator has been to human existence that one cannot imagine going back to an earlier era when the internet did not exist, since human lifestyle and societal infrastructure centres round it. By enhancing our ability to rapidly communicate with one another, the internet has been instrumental in propagating viewpoints, moulding public opinion, organizing public events, arranging for people to gather to respond to developments, et al. It is this enhancement of communication that makes fascist regimes view the internet at enemy number one and induces them to suppress it. Authoritarian regimes like China and North Korea wields iron-clad controls over what their citizens can view on the internet even as they monitor social media content for the slightest whiff of dissent. Pretending democracies like Russia or Belarus, while allowing internet use, subjects social media platforms to monitoring and censorship. As shown by precedents in Hong Kong or Myanmar, fascist elements cut off the internet the moment they confront public protest, since it forestalls demonstrators to mobilize their resources. Sadly, even India, the largest democracy in the world, in the name of helping to maintain law and order, takes the disconnect route, as exemplified by what has happened during the ongoing protests by farmers.
It is in such a context that one raises two cheers at the news that, after 18 months, 4G services have been restored in entire Jammu and Kashmir. It may be recalled that prior to the abrogation of Article 370 stripping Jammu and Kashmir of its special status on August 5, 2019, the Centre had imposed restrictions on high-speed 4G internet service, citing the presence of separatists and Pakistan-based terrorists in the area. Though, five months later, 2G services were restored in several places, high-speed services continued to be restricted. The adverse impact the ban had made on all economic sectors, education, tourism, transport, health, handicraft, etc., can hardly be overstressed, particularly because it had been imposed in the midst of a pandemic. For instance, as mentioned in a plea before the Supreme Court of India by the Private Schools Associations of Jammu and Kashmir, students lost two academic sessions since facilities such as Zoom could not operate with 2G, yet no concessions have been given to Kashmiri pupils who had to sit for all-India examinations. Others too have pointed out that although they had not rendered 4G service, cellular companies had continued to charge customers full tariffs. The high-speed internet ban in Jammu and Kashmir, whose population numbers more than 13 million, has allegedly been the longest by any democracy, and might have remained even longer had it not been for judicious intervention by the Supreme Court.