“Ours is a different world and the government wants to remind us that we don’t belong to the time and space that exists outside our geographic frontiers,” Rameez Parray said, while showing us that his browser was not connecting to the internet. Rameez, the son of a farmer, hails from Kupwara district, in Kashmir, and is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in the University of Kashmir. “My father has invested a lot in me,” he told us. “He has given me deadline to finish my PhD and start working. I find it difficult to explain to him that I have lost half of my year because of no internet facility.”
We met Rameez at his rented accommodation in Srinagar’s Hazratbal locality, which he had left vacant for around four months during the Indian state’s clampdown on Kashmir since August last year. Rameez told us he feels overwhelmed by the stress of not meeting the deadlines for his research. He had just returned from his home to restart his research but did not know where to start without a proper internet connection.
In August 2019, the Indian government abrogated Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and enforced a communication blackout in the region. This included an internet shutdown, the longest such shutdown ever imposed in a democracy. Seven months later, on 4 March, the Jammu and Kashmir government issued an order directing the restoration of internet access, while restricting access to slower 2G networks. We spoke to 30 researchers from Kashmir in late February. They told us about their everyday struggles and how the internet blockade had economically, emotionally and academically devastated them.