Amid COVID-19 Pandemic, Over 170 Academics from Around the World Demand India Restore High-Speed Internet, Release Kashmiri Political Prisoners
March 22, 2020

While the world readjusts to handle the Coronavirus, Kashmir is stuck under 2G internet (which was first rolled out in 1995) and without adequate equipment and facilities. As a result, the following letter has been sent from the Kashmir Scholars Consultative and Action Network (KSCAN) and Concerned Academics & Professionals from around the world to the World Health Organization, UN Special Rapporteurs, and various international health organizations. You can view the official letter here. We have included relevant links embedded directly from the original news sources at the bottom of this letter. For more, check out our Kashmir 2019 Siege section.

We the undersigned would like to bring to your notice the debilitating communications lockdown that has been in place in Indian-controlled Kashmir for the past seven months. Despite the region reporting multiple positive cases of Covid-19, the Indian government has, criminally, barred residents from accessing reliable, high-speed internet. Only recently, through an administrative diktat, the Indian authorities extended the ban on high-speed internet until 26th of March.

 

Residents constantly report the unreliability and slowness of low-speed internet (2G) in opening basic web pages, let alone using it for data-heavy purposes like accessing medical and educational resources.

As a reminder, the maximum speed of 2G is about 50 Kbps; that of a 4G network, the current global standard, when the device is moving is 100 Mbps and 1 Gbps when the caller is stationary or walking. That means, even in these times of a global pandemic — where timely access to critical information by the doctors and the public might be a key to survival — India is punishing Kashmiris via an internet 2,000 to 20,000 times slower than the rest of the world. The actions of the Indian government constitute denial of critical and humanitarian assistance and as such are criminal and a breach of the Geneva Conventions. The centrality of a reliable communications channel in tackling this global pandemic cannot be overstated, as was recently expressed by the UN Human Rights Special Rapporteurs.

 

Eight Million People Can't Get News About The Coronavirus Because Their Government Is Slowing Down The Internet

NEW DELHI - More than 8 million people who live in Kashmir, the disputed region between India and Pakistan, are unable to depend on the internet to get reliable information about the coronavirus pandemic, work from home, or attend classes online.

Apart from allowing individuals and families to access the latest information on how to keep themselves safe from the Corona virus, high-speed internet allows healthcare professionals to be aware of the latest information regarding managing the impending medical crisis as well as to stay in touch with their colleagues around the globe for advice.

As we are already seeing in countries across Europe and America, reliable internet also allows day-to-day economic and educational functions to operate substantially during any social-distancing measures, which are central to preventing community spread of this highly contagious disease. It is also urgent to bring to your attention the plight of hundreds of Kashmiri political prisoners, who remain detained in unhygienic conditions in various jails in Kashmir and across India, and are therefore at a grave and increased risk of infection. Global health experts have urged the immediate release of prisoners, and we second these calls.

Kashmiri leaders aren't the only ones held under PSA - young men are languishing in faraway jails

When the Modi government scrapped the special status of Jammu and Kashmir on August 5, placing the region under lockdown, the men in the Pandit family were worried. "On August 6, two of my sons and I stayed away from home because of the situation," said Ghulam Rasool Pandit, who lives in Karimabad village in South Kashmir's Pulwama district.

Given that the transnational, well-respected group Genocide Watch has placed Indian Occupied, and now Annexed, Kashmir on Genocide Alert, the genocidal intent of the Occupation apparatus is already established. Some of the public information being distributed by the Indian state wrongly indicates that asymptomatic people who arrive from areas of contagion or who have been in close proximity to people infected with Covid-19 are “safe” and do not require testing. Moreover, many people arriving from high-infection areas were not tested at the Srinagar airport. The first Kashmiri presenting Covid-19 returned from Saudi Arabia on March 16th, and was tested positive only on March 18th. The range of contagion during those two very critical days could have been limited and prevented by strict quarantine, but it was not. Add to this, the uniquely cruel punishment of a deliberately slow internet. The negligence of the Indian State towards Kashmiris’ safety can be explicitly seen as criminal and in fact, genocidal.

Coronavirus cases are being missed in Kashmir because of inadequate testing, claim doctors

Doctors in Indian administered Kashmir believe the authorities could have facilitated the spread of deadly coronavirus by refusing to carry out tests. Dr Tsering Angchuk, the Medical Superintendent in Sonam Norboo Memorial Hospital (SNM) in the city of Leh, received three patients he suspected of having contracted coronavirus in late January.

Through your good offices, we — the multiple Kashmiri and non-Kashmiri scholars, medical as well as public healthcare professionals and academics living across the globe — urge the Indian government to immediately restore high-speed internet connectivity in the region and, unconditionally, release all Kashmiri political prisoners. As Kashmir heads into this pandemic with a severely underdeveloped public health infrastructure and healthcare system, as result of decades of militarization, it is imperative that the Indian government allow its residents to make use of virtual technologies to their maximum potential in order to alleviate the dreadful impact of this virus. Ensuring the alleviation of the pandemic in Kashmir is urgent for Kashmiris as well as for the region and the world.

Thank you for your time and attention.

Signatories:

  1. Dean Accardi, Assistant Professor of History, Connecticut College, USA
  2. Binish Ahmed, Ph.D. Candidate, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada
  3. Omer Aijazi, Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Toronto, Canada
  4. Dibyesh Anand, Professor of International Relations, University of Westminster, UK
  5. Mirza Saaib Beg, Lawyer, London, UK
  6. Mona Bhan, Associate Professor of Anthropology and the Ford Maxwell Professor of South Asian Studies, Syracuse University, USA
  7. Emma Brännlund, Senior Lecturer in Politics and International Relations, University of the West of England (UWE Bristol), UK
  8. Farhan Mujahid Chak, Associate Professor, Qatar University, Qatar
  9. Angana Chatterji, University of California, Berkeley
  10. Huma Dar, Adjunct Professor, California College of Arts, USA
  11. Haley Duschinski, Associate Professor, Ohio University, USA
  12. Iffat Fatima, Filmmaker, India
  13. Mohammed Tahir Ganie, Assistant Professor, School of Law and Government, Dublin City University, Ireland
  14. Javaid Hayat Khan, Ph. D. Independent Researcher and Analyst, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
  15. Serena Hussain, Associate Professor, Coventry University, UK
  16. Khushdeep Kaur, Ph.D. Candidate, Temple University, USA
  17. Nitasha Kaul, Associate Professor, University of Westminster, UK
  18. Shrimoyee Nandini Ghosh, Lawyer and Legal Researcher, India
  19. Mohamad Junaid, Assistant Professor, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, USA
  20. Hafsa Kanjwal, Assistant Professor of History, Lafayette College, USA
  21. Mir Fatimah Kanth, Ph.D. Student, University of California, San Diego, USA
  22. Ain Ul Khair, Central European University
  23. Suvir Kaul, A.M. Rosenthal Professor, Department of English, University of Pennsylvania, USA
  24. Zunaira Komal, Ph.D. Candidate, University of California, Davis, USA
  25. Fozia Nazir Lone, Associate Professor of International Law, City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
  26. Laura Lucia Notaro, Consultant, Sustainable Development, Milan, Italy
  27. Inshah Malik, Assistant Professor, Kardan University, Kabul, Afghanistan
  28. Deepti Misri, Associate Professor, University of Colorado, Boulder, USA
  29. Preetika Nanda, Research Scholar, India
  30. Raja Qaiser Ahmad, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad, Pakistan
  31. Immad Nazir, Research Scholar, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany
  32. Goldie Osuri, Associate Professor, University of Warwick, UK
  33. Idrisa Pandit, Independent Scholar, Waterloo, Canada
  34. Samina Raja, Professor, University of Buffalo, USA
  35. Torrun Arnsten Sajjad, Department of Community Medicine and Global Health, University of Oslo, Norway
  36. Mehroosh Tak., Lecturer, Royal Veterinary College, London, UK
  37. Nishita Trisal, Ph.D. Candidate, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA
  38. Saiba Varma, Assistant Professor, University of California, San Diego, USA
  39. Haris Zargar, Ph.D. Candidate, International Institute of Social Sciences, The Hague, Netherlands
  40. Ather Zia, Assistant Professor, University of Northern Colorado, USA
  41. Mirza Waheed, Novelist, London
  42. Dr Priyamvada Gopal, Cambridge University
  43. Khawaja Khalid Rauf, IT Admin. Hamburg, Germany
  44. Aamir Rashid Najar, IT consultant, Hamburg, Germany
  45. Tavseef Mairaj, PhD candidate, Hamburg University of Technology, Germany
  46. Mudasir Wazir, Frankfurt am Main, Germany
  47. Umar Lateef Misgar, University of Westminster, London
  48. Ikram Ullah, University of Marburg, Germany
  49. Ramya Maddali, Académie d’Orléans-Tours, Orléans, France
  50. Aashna Jamal, Economist, Timor-Leste
  51. Hashim Syed, Visual Anthropologist, University of Münster, Germany
  52. Zara Bakshi, Researcher, Ashoka University
  53. Annapurna Menon, University of Westminster, London
  54. Suhail Yousuf, PhD, Heidelberg University Medical Center and German Cancer Research Center, Germany
  55. Pooja Krishnakumar, PhD candidate, SOAS, University of London, United Kingdom
  56. Saima Rashid, Post-Grad student, Istanbul Sabahattin Zaim University, Istanbul, Turkey
  57. Tara Vidisha Ghose, SOAS University of London, United Kingdom
  58. Tara Bhat, SOAS University of London, London, United Kingdom
  59. Maya Bhardwaj, SOAS — University of London, UK
  60. Gehna Kapoor
  61. Saquib Farooq, University of Fribourg, Switzerland.
  62. Dr. Haneen Bég, Kumudini Womens Medical College and Hospital, Bangladesh
  63. Aruna Chaudhuri, London, United Kingdom
  64. Waseem Malik, Zakir Husain Centre for Educational Studies, JNU, India.
  65. Rabia Latif Khan, PhD candidate, SOAS, University of London
  66. Syed Burhan Gilani, MBBS student, Bolan Medical College, Quetta
  67. Ummi Ammarah, Joint PhD student between KU Leuven, Belgium and University of Turin, Italy.
  68. Arshita Nandan
  69. Tanvi Surana, London School of Economics and Political Science, UK.
  70. Huma Raiel Assad, Junior Research Fellow, Indian Institute of Sciences, Bangalore
  71. Sarah Lina Ewald, PhD candidate, University of Tübingen, Germany
  72. Abhishek Mukhopadhyay, France
  73. Burooj Ghani, PhD Candidate, University of Göttingen, Germany
  74. Iffat Rashid, University of Oxford, United Kingdom
  75. Faisal Wani, PhD candidate, Delft University of Technology, Netherlands.
  76. Alia Andleeb, University of East Anglia, UK
  77. Shams Rehman, JKTV Live
  78. Abdulfatah Yousfi, Norwich Medical School, University of East Anglia
  79. Tridib Bhattacharya, SOAS University of London
  80. Amit Kumar, Student, Faculty of Law, University of Delhi
  81. Evita, National Alliance of People’s Movements.
  82. Zeeshan Mushtaq, PhD Candidate, Technische Universität Kaiserslautern, Germany.
  83. Peer Viqar Ul Aslam, Chairman, Human Rights and Relief Foundation
  84. Nimra Neyaz,M.Sc student,Jamia Hamdard University,India
  85. Mubashir Ahmad, PhD, Ulm University, Germany.
  86. Dr. Basit Yousuf, Canadian Blood Services, Canada
  87. Abdul Muqeet Khan, Director of Internal Audit, QInvest
  88. Shaikh Akhtar Rasool, Technical Architect, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
  89. Atiya Husain, Assistant Professor, University of Richmond, US
  90. Nouf Bazaz, Clinical Assistant Professor, Loyola University Maryland, USA
  91. Aparna Gopalan, PhD Candidate, Harvard University
  92. Divya Cherian, Assistant Professor, Princeton University
  93. Sheetal Chhabria, Associate Professor, Connecticut College
  94. Audrey Truschke, Assistant Professor, Rutgers University
  95. Dr Fayaz Dar
  96. Mariam Duranni, Assistant Professor, Hamilton College
  97. Walter N. Hakala, Associate Professor, University at Buffalo, USA
  98. Akshaya Tankha, PhD Candidate, University of Toronto
  99. Dr. Dina M Siddiqi, New York University
  100. Dr Shoukat Rashid Dar MD Emergentologist HMC Doha.
  101. Atif Shahzad, System Integration Specialist, Hamburg, Germany.
  102. Tapsi Mathur, Assistant Professor of History, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
  103. Dr. M Ashraf Bhat, Jazan University, KSA
  104. Hasan Aahraf, Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, Jahangirnagar University, Bangladesh
  105. Dr. Anooradha Iyer Siddiqi, Barnard College, Columbia University
  106. Dia Da Costa, University of Alberta
  107. Alan Greig
  108. Dr. Beth Capper, Department of English and Film Studies, University of Alberta
  109. Terri Tomsky, Associate Professor, University of Alberta
  110. Dr. Dip Kapoor, Professor, University of Alberta
  111. Dr. Shama Rangwala, University of Alberta
  112. Dr. Natasha Hurley, Office of Interdisciplinary Studies, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta
  113. Dr. Neha Vora, Lafayette College
  114. Iqbal Javeed, Lead Consultant
  115. Dr. Ananya Chakravarti, Associate Professor of History, Georgetown University
  116. Amit Kumar
  117. Supriya Nayak, Dance artist, Toronto
  118. Mubbashir Rizvi, Georgetown University
  119. Noaman G. Ali, Assistant Professor, Lahore University of Management Sciences
  120. Monica Gyamlani, Student, National Film and Television School
  121. Dr. Tasaduk Hussain Itoo, Chairman cum Director J & K Innovative Foundation For Transforming Society (JKIFTS)
  122. Praveen Kolluguri, Propositions Specialist, British Telecom. CEO, foodBae
  123. Abdullah Al-Arian, Associate Professor, UniversityGeorgetown University in Qatar
  124. Hamsa Stainton, Assistant Professor, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec
  125. Visvaksen P, South Asian Studies, SOAS, University of London
  126. Tim Newfield, Assistant Professor, History and Biology, Georgetown University
  127. Yodit Tesfamicael, Education Policy Studies Department, University of Alberta
  128. Lebogang Disele, Department of Drama, University of Alberta
  129. Sara Hakeem Grewal, Assistant Professor, MacEwan University, Edmonton, AB
  130. Eddy Kent, Associate Professor of English, University of Alberta
  131. Shaista Patel, Assistant Professor, University of California, San Diego
  132. Debjani Bhattacharyya, Assistant Professor, Drexel University, Philadelphia.
  133. Dr. Janice Williamson, Professor Emeritus of English, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada
  134. Junaid Quadri, Department of History, University of Illinois at Chicago
  135. Ania Loomba Professor of English, University of Pennsylvania
  136. Projit Bihari Mukharji, Associate Professor, University of Pennsylvania.
  137. David Ludden, New York University
  138. Nama Khalil, Adjunct Professor, Columbus College of Art and Design
  139. Arooj Khalil, Queen Mary, University of London
  140. Gillian Robinson, PhD student, Educational Policy Studies, University of Alberta
  141. Zareena Grewal Assoc Prof Ethnicity Race & Migration Yale University
  142. Banazeer Yaqoob, University of Alberta
  143. Lorena Espinoza Guerrero, Central European University
  144. Hoda Bandeh-Ahmadi, Director of Social Research, Center for Surgical Training and Research, University of Michigan
  145. Daniel Muth, Central European University
  146. Antonio Alcazar III, Central European University
  147. SherAli Tareen, Associate Professor Department of Religious Studies, Franklin and Marshall College
  148. Malavika Kasturi, Associate Professor, Department of History, University of Toronto
  149. Anjum Rafiqi, Sydney
  150. Danial Asmat, PhD, Research Economist, Washington D.C.
  151. Chinnaiah Jangam, Associate Professor, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada
  152. Areej Alshammiry, Graduate Student, Educational Policy Studies, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada.
  153. Renan Silva, Central European University
  154. Junaid S. Ahmad, Assistant Professor of Islam and Decolonial Thought, University of Management and Technology
  155. Aslam Mehmood Bachh, BE Electronics, FSR Unity Lab Services
  156. Omar M. Ramahi, Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
  157. Aasim Amin, Research Scientist, Germany
  158. Dr. Sadequl Islam, Professor & Chair, Department of Economics, Laurentian University, Ontario, Canada
  159. Erick D. Langer, Professor, Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University
  160. Manjita Mukharji
  161. Bhavani Raman, University of Toronto, Canada.
  162. Dr. Romina Ruvalcaba, University of California, Merced.
  163. Michael Litwack, Assistant Professor, Department of English & Film Studies, University of Alberta
  164. Nadia Khan, Doctoral Candidate, University of Chicago Divinity School
  165. Rohan D’Souza, Associate Professor, Graduate School of Asian and African Area Studies, Kyoto University.
  166. Ayesha Sadaf, post doctoral researcher
  167. Ahmed Mobeen, PhD Research Scholar, IGIB, India
  168. Giancarlo Grignaschi, PhD student, Central European University, Budapest
  169. Anam Zakaria, Oral Historian and Author
  170. Kalpana Wilson, Lecturer in Geography, Birkbeck, University of London
  171. Zahida War, King’s College London, UK
  172. Sadhvi Dar, Queen Mary University of London, UK
  173. Remi Joseph-Salisbury, University of Manchester’s
  174. Diwas Raja Kc, Head of Research & Archives, Nepal Picture Library
  175. Waseem Yaqoob, Queen Mary University of London
  176. Matteo Mandarini, Queen Mary University of London
  177. Akshi Singh, Queen Mary University of London
  178. Nivi Manchanda, Queen Mary University of London
  179. Chris Moffat, Queen Mary University of London
  180. Amina Mir, Doctoral Researcher, University of Westminster
  181. Feyzi Ismail, SOAS, University of London
  182. Lilia Sablina, PhD student, Central European University
  183. Sanaz Raji, Independent Scholar & Migrant Rights Campaigner
  184. Simon Layton, Queen Mary University of London
  185. Devyani Sharma, Queen Mary University of London
  186. Dr Gwyneth Lonergan, Lancaster University
  187. Navyug Gill, William Paterson University
  188. Dr. Nicole Wolf, University of London
  189. Dr Drew Milne, University of Cambridge, UK.
  190. Dr Tanzil Chowdhury, Queen Mary University of London
  191. Dr Naaz Rashid, University of Sussex
  192. John L Esposito, Georgetown University
  193. Zeinab Drabu, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)
  194. Madhusree Mukerjee, Author, Churchill’s Secret War
  195. Virinder Kalra, University of Warwick
  196. Dr.K.W.Hassan, Central University of Kashmir
  197. Marcia Chatelain, Ph.D., Georgetown University
  198. Dr Lotika Singha, Honorary Research Fellow, University of Wolverhampton, UK
  199. Professor Robert Hampson, University of London
  200. Dr Arshad Rather, FRCP, University college London
  201. Nisha Nath, PhD, Athabasca University, Canada

Relevant Links

India's Internet shutdown in Kashmir is the longest ever in a democracy

NEW DELHI - Each morning at 8:15 a.m., a train pulls out of the station in the Kashmiri capital of Srinagar. Hundreds of passengers cram the cars for the 70-mile journey, packed so tightly they can barely move. Nearly all will return the same day. Kashmiris call the train the Internet Express.

Coronavirus | 3 more COVID-19 cases in Ladakh, one more in J&K

Three fresh cases of COVID-19 were confirmed by the Ladakh administration on Tuesday, taking the total number of cases to six in the sparsely populated cold desert region. "Three more from Ladakh have tested positive. Two are from Leh district and one is from Kargil district.

Saudi returned woman becomes first COVID19 case in Kashmir - The Kashmir Monitor

Srinagar, Mar 18: The first coronavirus case in Kashmir was confirmed by authorities on Wednesday. A local woman who had recently returned from Saudi Arabia was tested positive making her the first such case in the valley.

Eight Million People Can't Get News About The Coronavirus Because Their Government Is Slowing Down The Internet

NEW DELHI - More than 8 million people who live in Kashmir, the disputed region between India and Pakistan, are unable to depend on the internet to get reliable information about the coronavirus pandemic, work from home, or attend classes online.

Coronavirus cases are being missed in Kashmir because of inadequate testing, claim doctors

Doctors in Indian administered Kashmir believe the authorities could have facilitated the spread of deadly coronavirus by refusing to carry out tests. Dr Tsering Angchuk, the Medical Superintendent in Sonam Norboo Memorial Hospital (SNM) in the city of Leh, received three patients he suspected of having contracted coronavirus in late January.

Population 7 Million, Ventilators 97, Kashmir Braces For COVID-19

Srinagar:- With a population of 68.88 lakh Kashmir Valley has only 97 ventilators to help critically-ill coronavirus patients who require invasive mechanical ventilation to survive. Sources at the Health Department told Kashmir Observer that there is a shortage of ventilators in the Kashmir valley and almost all the functional ventilators are occupied presently.

Mitigate risks of Covid-19 for Jammu and Kashmir by immediately restoring full access to internet services

In wake of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the Government of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir must restore full access to internet services in the region of Jammu and Kashmir and ensure that people have full access to health and safety related information, said Amnesty International India today.

JKIFTS Urges Government to Restore High Speed Internet! Health and Education badly hit Dr Tasaduk

SHAH KHALID Sringar Mar 18: Dr Tasaduk Hussain Itoo, Chairman J & K Innovative Foundation for Transforming Society ( JKIFTS) today said that months long communication blockade in erstwhile sta...

Population 7 Million, Ventilators 97, Kashmir Braces For COVID-19

Srinagar:- With a population of 68.88 lakh Kashmir Valley has only 97 ventilators to help critically-ill coronavirus patients who require invasive mechanical ventilation to survive. Sources at the Health Department told Kashmir Observer that there is a shortage of ventilators in the Kashmir valley and almost all the functional ventilators are occupied presently.

'An Hour to Download ICU Guidelines': Amid COVID-19, Kashmir Doctors Struggle With Slow Internet

Srinagar: As the first COVID-19 case was officially confirmed from Srinagar on Wednesday and the Valley was subsequently locked down again, the doctors, healthcare workers, researchers and students in Kashmir are taking to social media to raise concerns about restricted information due to slow speed internet.

Doctors in Kashmir seek accommodation as they 'don't want to carry coronavirus back home'

Srinagar: Doctors in Kashmir hospitals, where suspected COVID-19 patients are admitted, have sought hostel accommodation, fearing that they might infect their family or others. According to the doctors, there is a high probability they might get infected while on duty. Two female resident doctors have already been put under observation after they complained about respiratory problems, fever and cold.

Kashmiri Doctors' Body Appeals for Protective Gear, Masks, Ventilators - The Wire Science

Srinagar: Doctors in government-run hospitals and medical health workers in Kashmir, involved in testing and screenings of suspected cases of COVID-19 declared a pandemic by World Health Organisation (WHO), have raised concerns about the lack of proper and adequate personnel protection gears and safety equipment like N95 masks, PVC coated gowns and goggles.

Coronavirus in Kashmir: Lies & Reluctance in Times of Pandemic

Invoking provisions of the harsh Disaster Management Act (DMA) 2005, Srinagar District Magistrate Shahid Choudhary had a tough time arranging for isolation of around 1,200 COVID-19 suspects, mostly the medical students returning from Bangladesh on Friday and Saturday.

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