Back to pre-internet stone age | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, December 24, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:42 AM, December 24, 2019


Back to pre-internet stone age

People queuing for hours to pay bills or using govt ‘internet kiosks’

In remote Indian Kashmir people have been offline since August, queuing for hours to pay bills or using government “internet kiosks”. As protests rage in other areas of India, it’s something people outside the Himalayan region are also getting a taste of.

Indian authorities, who according to activists lead the world when it comes to cutting the internet, snapped Kashmir’s access when New Delhi scrapped the region’s seven-decade-old autonomy.

In the past two weeks of violent protests across India against a new citizenship law, mobile internet has been cut in swathes of the country and fixed-line access in places too.

In Kashmir, a security lockdown imposed in August has been eased and some cellphones now work again. But hundreds of political leaders and others remain locked up -- and there is no internet.

In the main city Srinagar, Mohammad Irfan waited in a long line inside a large hall run by a state-owned telecommunications firm.

“I would (previously) do this in my spare time or even while walking (on my cellphone),” Irfan told AFP.

“But now I’m standing in this queue for about an hour each time to pay my phone bill.”

Flooded by complaints from businesses and people unable to do all the myriad things they used to online, authorities recently set up the internet kiosks.

There are around a dozen of them for the region’s seven million inhabitants, and people can only use the computers, when they function, for 10 or 15 minutes.

With New Delhi saying it wants to avoid the net being used by militants -- a deadly separatist insurgency has raged in Kashmir for decades -- usage is also closely monitored.

People have to show their identity details and say exactly what they want to go online for, including what websites they intend to visit -- and why. Visiting social media sites is not allowed.

Officials pace behind the terminals, watching the screens closely and telling people to move on when they’re done. Users suspect that every click is tracked by software too.

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