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 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, with certain restrictions.
However, the nature of the relief is extremely limited. It appears that the government is, in a way, weaponising the internet and undermining the fundamental rights of citizens in the world’s largest democracy.
The order reinstated internet access with restrictions. It restricted the speed to 2G, and stated that prepaid SIM cards would not have access to the internet unless they are verified as per the norms applicable for post-paid connections. Furthermore, internet connectivity will be available only with Mac-binding, a system of pairing a device’s media access control, or Mac address, to its internet protocol, or IP address. These restrictions are problematic for several reasons. Instead of a measure that truly restores freedom and access in the region, the order is a mere palliative that creates an illusion of these ideals. As it stands, the order limits where and how citizens may express themselves or access information online.