[dropcap]I[/dropcap]N a unique way to protest against ongoing communications blockade and restrictions on movement in Kashmir, some Mumbai based rights defenders have decided to observe ‘Cyber Satyagraha’ on October 2, which coincides with 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.
Even though the clampdown has been eased in some parts of Jammu and Kashmir, an unprecedented communication blockade continues in Kashmir Valley since August 5 when Home Minister Amit Shah moved two Bills to revoke Jammu and Kashmir’s special status under Article 370 and bifurcate and the downgrade the State into two Union Territories. Cell phone connectivity and Internet services remain snapped amid fears that separatists and Pakistan might misuse the facilities to fuel unrest in the region.
“We will be shutting down our communications (landline + internet + mobiles+TV) on October 2 from 6:00 am to 9:00 pm,” read a text from Lalita Ramdas, Admiral (Retd) L Ramdas and Lara Jesani who work with Maharashtra Chapter of Peoples Union for Civil Liberties.
“This is an experiment (also part of a movement) to voluntarily experience how it feels to be unable to communicate with others and to be unable to receive communications from others including our near and dear ones,” it added.
The activists, in their message, urged others as well to join the Gandhian way of protest against the continuing restrictions in Kashmir. “This is advance notice to you about our forthcoming voluntary experiment so that you shouldn’t worry if you are unable to contact us, and it is also a challenge to you to do likewise on 02 October, after informing your near and dear ones so that they shouldn’t worry about your health and welfare.”
Repeated attempts to reach the activists evoked no response.
Incidentally, their call for Gandhian protest has resonated with many Twitter users, who have been using hashtags like #Cyber Satyagraha, #StandWithKashmir and #LockMeDown.
Admiral Ramdas and Lalita Ramdas appeals.
On OCT 2 2019 |From 6:00 AM to 9:00 PM.
"We will be shutting down our communications (landline +internet + mobiles+TV) This is an experiment to voluntarily experience how it feels to be unable to communicate. pic.twitter.com/NlDkXyWv9Q
— SAJJAD HUSSAIN (@sajjadkargili) September 30, 2019
#LockMeDown On Oct 2. I'll shut my phone,internet,tv etc – frm 10 am to 10 pm.I'll then write my experience next day on social media. join me in this sharing of what it means to be totally cut off? Anyone can join in. Please share this widely. #StandWithKashmir#CyberSatyagraha pic.twitter.com/oNsKT8AyTp
— Sha Ansari (@shahidansaris) October 1, 2019
Just the THOUGHT of doing this fills me with dread. Imagine having it imposed suddenly without consent – and for 51 days. Count me in #cybersatyagraha
— Dr. Sylvia Karpagam #StandWithKashmir #JaiShreeRam (@sakie339) September 26, 2019
Satyagraha, which translates roughly as ‘holding onto truth-force’, was developed and deployed as a political weapon by Gandhiji during Indian independence movement. While in South Africa, he perfected techniques of nonviolent resistance and wrote a book, Satyagraha in South Africa, after returning to India.
Even though Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Sunday said there are no restrictions in the Kashmir Valley now, there is a growing criticism of the government for crippling local media in Kashmir through restrictions and communications blackout.
His statement came a day after 14 US Congressmen urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to address concerns over the human rights situation in Kashmir and lift the communications blackout.
On Monday, the Chief Election Commissioner, Jammu and Kashmir announced that the block development council polls will be held on October 24.
However, several political parties reacting to the announcement said it was a “travesty of justice” and an attempt to show the world that things were “normal” in the region.