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'Encounters Adding Salt to Our Wounds': Students in J&K's Anantnag Reel Amid Regular Internet Shutdowns

Image for representation: A security personnel stands guard at a closed market, in Srinagar. (PTI/File Photo)

Image for representation: A security personnel stands guard at a closed market, in Srinagar. (PTI/File Photo)

Residents of the South Kashmir district waited for the anti-militant operation to conclude as the frequent gunfights have severely affected their daily functioning, including access to the already slow 2G internet connection.

Suspicion of possible tensions between military forces and military in Jammu and Kashmir's Anantnag region was confirmed after residents reported severe internet service issues on Sunday.

A massive cordon-and-search operation was launched in the Poshkreeri area of Anantnag district during the night by Indian Army, J&K Police and CRPF following information about the presence of militants, a police official said.

As the security forces searched, mobile internet services were shut down in the entire district as a precautionary measure.

Militants initially opened fire and relocated, resulting in further intensified search by the forces. A gunfight was later triggered between the troops and the militants.

Meanwhile, residents of the South Kashmir district waited for the operation to conclude as the frequent operations have severely affected their daily functioning, including access to the already slower 2G internet connection.

Resident Arif Hussain said people, especially the youth are now fed up of the encounters as they have become more frequent. According to Arif, the regular interruptions in mobile internet connectivity have not only irked the youth but have also disappointed most residents.

Junaid Lolu, a Journalism student, stated that people are unaware of the reasons why security forces shut down mobile services whenever a gunfight is triggered in the region.

Another resident, Asma Tahir, said that the internet system in Jammu and Kashmir is passing through "a grim and disappointing situation" after the abrogation of Article 370 with students being the worst-hit.

"We are not fulfilling our internet requirements through the available 2G mode and frequent shutdowns during anti-militancy operations are adding salt to the wounds," said Asma.

The Government has already issued instructions to schools to conduct online classes due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The administration's decision on announcing e-learning has faced severe criticised by many regarding these online classes during the availability of only 2g internet.

Students state that the suspension of even the limited 2g services during these operations by security forces have created more barriers. Mursal, a primary school student in the valley said that that internet is the only source of keeping them updated in the absence of their school teachers during the lockdown, shutting down of services means that she misses out on her school.

Security agencies and police are defending the internet suspension during militant operations by citing national security concerns. A senior police official on condition of anonymity said that that based on past operations, several unscrupulous elements have managed to trigger tensions by provoking people during these operations through posts on the internet and have proved big reason for the deterioration of law and order in the sensitive region.

The official said that rumour-mongers are trying to instigate people during such operations by misleading them, therefore the internet suspension during these operations are essential steps to ensure maximum protection to the troops and for the locals.

After the abrogation of J&K's special status in August 2019, the educational institutes in Kashmir remained closed for nearly seven months and communication remained blocked. The coronavirus pandemic is another challenge for the education sector. To meet this challenge internet can play a vital role in streamlining the education sector during the lockdown, but regular operations have emerged as a significant threat to such initiatives.

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