Hundreds of students under the banner of National Students’ Union of India (NSUI) launched a protest on Friday, November 15, outside the Jammu University against the internet gag in Jammu. Protesters were seen holding placards and raising slogans for the restoration of internet in the newly-formed Union Territory (UT). It has been more than 100 days since internet services have been suspended in the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir. Internet blocking has hindered online examination processes, and the learning process of students.
Speaking to Newsclick, Raqeeq Ahmed, state president of NSUI, said, “It has been more than 100 days since internet service was blocked. BTech and MTech students who take online coaching have already paid Rs 50,000 for fees and are now suffering. More than 5,000 students are unable to apply for NEET exams. There are few cyber cafes but the resources are sparse. Cafes have long queues, and the broadband is also very slow. E-learning has been murdered. PhD scholars are not able to submit their theses.”
“In simpler words, we are handicapped. Even the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) and para-medical students are not able to submit their assignments because they don’t know the date,” he added.
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Protesting students resolved to launch a Jan Andolan (people’s movement) if internet service is not restored in 5 days. One of the protesting students told NewsClick, “If internet is not restored in next 5 days, we will be forced to launch jan andolan. We have already suffered. We can’t suffer more.”
Amid the slogans, students bashed Modi’s ‘Digital India’. Students were heard saying, “Digital India mein bhi internet nahin hai.” (There is no internet in digital India
If there is normalcy, then why no Internet?
The protesting students were seen repeatedly asking one question: If government claims of normalcy are true, then why there is no Internet?
“Agar BDC chunav ke liye normalcy hai, agar assembly agle chhe mahine ki baat kar rahey hai, toh internet kyu nahi chalate yeh log? Aap khud sochiye, agar normalcy hai toh Internet chala dijiye,” Ahmed said. (If there’s enough normalcy for BDC elections, if they are ready to form the assembly in next six months, why cannot they restore the internet service? If everything is so normal, they should restore the service.)
Another protester, Diksha told NewsClick, “I am an IGNOU student and we are dependent on internet for even basic thing like exams. I am not able to access anything. Examinations are nearing and I have no idea what I will do next. If internet is not restored soon, we will sit on a hunger strike but we will not budge.”
Mobile internet has been suspended because of the fear that internet might spread misinformation and lead to unrest in the erstwhile state. Earlier, internet connection was restored for two days in Jammu but was suspended again, fearing violence.
Protesting students tagged Anti-Nationals
Protesting students told NewsClick that they were threatened by the Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) and other police officials that they will be booked under sedition charges if they protest. Ahmed told NewsClick, “Is protesting for your education an anti-national activity? We have been threatened by SSP and others that they will file an FIR and tag us as anti-nationals. Agar basic rights ke liye ladna humein anti-national banata hai, toh anti-national hi sahi.” (If fighting for our own rights makes us anti-nationals, so be it.)
Other students also told NewsClick that they were threatened with anti-national label and were asked to not protest but this did not deter the students who were protesting against more than 100 days of internet blockade. With slogans renting the air, students marched and resolved to fight till internet is restored.