While on one end of the spectrum organisations are coming together to fund innovative projects engaging technology to identify COVID-19 innovations, companies are offering free digital student and health support, zoom classes and webinar formats have been put in practice, and apps and chat bots are getting created for communications, - on the other hand, Kashmir is still begging(literally) for 4g speed internet. And why should a resident of Kashmir need to do that? How does a Kashmiri talent participate, contribute in anything, with the basics not in place?
Fresh news tell us that "the final call will be taken by the government of J&K UT after assessing the situation on ground and getting security clearance of all concerned". Also that the issue is steadily calibrated. A local press mentioned that "Top officials from the police and administration had been maintaining that the if high speed internet would be restored, there were apprehensions that vested interests and anti-peace elements both within the UT and across the LoC would utilize it to foment trouble in J&K by spreading radicalization campaign and fake propaganda."
Wait a minute, what?
The entire world is fighting a global crisis. People are discussing mindset shifts and lifestyle modifications in the "new world" that is to become of this after the pandemic's impact unfolds. No country has the time or bandwidth to fuel those anyway rotting political battles. The world needs to work towards a single agenda currently, and that is of saving lives. This argument of "someone taking undue advantage of 4g internet in Kashmir", is clearly nothing but illogical. Can we not see it? Besides, 'the anti-peace elements can do what they want to on 2g too! So, what are we really evaluating. And at a time with strict curfews and high surveillance on interstate and international travel, what really is the govt suspecting? Do we not trust our own security measures? And, more importantly, do we not want any change to happen at all? The entire UT is in a lockdown for a consecutive second year and there is a threat to life if one does not isolate oneself. Can Kashmir at least try to build itself sitting at home? Can the children at least enjoy the comfort of fast paced internet, while worrying about their darkening future at the back of their minds?
Besides, Kashmir has already seen long and recurring periods of shut down, the latest one lasting 5 months. It is, in fact, all the more necessary for Kashmir, of all places, to be able to build itself again. And in this time, ONLY online space is the space for it to bank on. Can we not allow some work to happen peacefully, while people are locked down, so soon again?
Singapore government set an example of leadership and its people of responsible action. What is stopping us from learning from the many examples available in the world? This panic shutting down and arrest warrants against people not complying is NOT helping. Can we stop appropriating agendas in a time when it is imperative we put the community's needs first? People must believe in scientific reasons for staying indoors, and they do. In the time to come, people are going to have to volunteer, because more help will be required. Are we going to employ force even then? We are talking about people, who are as scared and unaware as any other, including the government today. Can we now find some time to reflect and mend our ways of leadership?
And what about children in Kashmir. Is it okay they don't get to learn well this year again, due to internet restrictions? Is it fair to say that 2 years won't make a difference in the long run? And let's not jump to 'health first' arguments. We are taking about the right to high speed internet to study from home, just like any other child in the world currently observes (of course, discounting the ones in other conflict prone regions and the ones on the margins of economy and society). There is so much out there for reference to make helpful decisions. Take this for example:
"It’s pretty well-known that children are asymptomatic or only have mild disease, so there was no real reason to close schools. If you close schools, what’s the trigger to reopen them?
In Singapore, we want life to go on as normal. We want businesses, churches, restaurants and schools to stay open. This is what success looks like. Everything goes forward with modifications as needed, and you keep doing this until there’s a vaccine or a treatment." - excerpt from an article by The Wire on Singapore's performance in safe-guarding its people and preparing for COVID-19 impact.
This is a testing time. None of us have the experience of combating it. But all of us are trying. Please recognise, that all of us are truly trying. All of us will make mistakes; all of us will panic, and perhaps many of us will be impacted hugely. But only solidarity and collective responsibility will sail us through this. All we need is to work together, because the purpose is shared and is large and nasty.
Blindfolded authoritative decisions will not bring us together. Panic, fear and politics of it will not treat our patients. Give the people what they need. Give them strength and the security to act in their own interest. Don't make them beg for their basics in a time when they're already on their knees. Give people reason to believe that this shall pass. Give them a reason to believe that we are all in it together.