Asia - Pacific

Kashmir: India's top court issues notice over COVID-19

Notice issued on plea seeking restoration of high speed internet in region amid coronavirus pandemic

Nusrat Sidiq   | 09.04.2020
Kashmir: India's top court issues notice over COVID-19

SRINAGAR, Jammu and Kashmir

The Indian Supreme Court on Thursday issued a notice to the government of the Indian-administered Kashmir region with regard to a plea seeking restoration of high speed internet, amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Three judges, including justices N V Ramana, R Subhash Reddy, and B R Gavai issued a notice, and called for a response from the Jammu and Kashmir government within a week.

Foundation for Media Professionals, a non-profit organization working for the welfare of journalists in the mainland India, filed the case while throwing a challenge to the "restrictive internet orders" passed by the Jammu and Kashmir government for violating the basic fundamental rights guaranteed under the Indian Constitution.

On April 3, the Jammu and Kashmir administration had stretched the ban on high speed internet till April 15 despite the rising number of coronavirus cases in the region.

“At a time like this when there is a spread of a global pandemic and the nation has been locked down in order to contain the contagion, granting limited access to internet facilities by restricting the speed to only 2G in Jammu and Kashmir is unreasonable,” the plea said.

It also said that with limited and restricted access to the internet in the region, patients and doctors are unable to access the latest information, advisories, and guidelines, while schools are unable to impart education online, with employees unable to work from home.

On Aug. 5 last year, India stripped the semi-autonomy of the region, and downgraded it into two federal territories.

The move was backed with severe military and communication blackout. The high speed internet since then has remained blocked in the region, although the Amnesty International and the UN Human Rights body called for lifting of restrictions on high speed internet in the region in view of the current pandemic crisis.

As of now, the region has 158 cases, including 33 infections reported on Wednesday, the highest figure in a single day. Also, death of a 61-year-old female patient was reported from the Jammu region late Wednesday, taking the death total to four, with six recoveries.

Disputed region

Kashmir is held by India and Pakistan in parts, and claimed both in full. A small sliver of Kashmir is also held by China.

Since they were partitioned in 1947, the two countries have fought three wars -- in 1948, 1965, and 1971 -- two of them over Kashmir.

Some Kashmiri groups in Jammu and Kashmir have been fighting against the Indian rule for independence, or unification with neighboring Pakistan.

According to several human rights organizations, thousands of people have reportedly been killed in the conflict in the region since 1989.

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