Bengaluru: Over 780 prominent Indian scientists, researchers and academicians from premier institutions such as IITs and IISc have, through two statements, asked the Modi government to end the communication lockdown in Kashmir.
The first statement, which was originally published in The Hindu, calls attention to the impact of the restrictions on academic institutions in Kashmir.
Initially signed by six well-known personalities — B. Ananthanarayan (Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru), Gautam Menon (Ashoka University, Sonepat), Jayant Murthy (Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bengaluru), Rahul Siddharthan (Institute of Mathematical Sciences, Chennai), Reeteka Sud (NIMHANS, Bengaluru) and Mukund Thattai (National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bengaluru) — the statement had been endorsed by 150 others by Thursday.
“While all residents of Kashmir deserve to be heard, we wish to express our concern about the situation at academic institutions,” the statement reads.
“The University of Kashmir is home to many fine scholars, including young scientists who have returned to India from reputable institutions abroad to set up their own laboratories in Kashmir and train the next generation of scientists, supported by funding from Indian government bodies like DST (department of science and technology) and DBT (department of biotechnology) and prestigious fellowships like the Early Career Fellowships from India Alliance. Such researchers, and their students, remain cut off from the internet and the world. In today’s world, the internet is an absolutely vital tool for conducting and communicating research,” the statement adds.
“Not only are the scientists unreachable, even the University of Kashmir’s domain has disappeared from Google’s search results for the university. Some other institutions (Central University of Kashmir, National Institute of Technology Srinagar, and others) appear to have functioning websites, but these have not been updated since July,” it reads.
The communication lockdown in Jammu & Kashmir has been in place since the first week of August, when the Modi government stripped the state of its special status by revoking Article 370 and bifurcated it into two union territories.
The restrictions have been justified by the government as an essential requirement to maintain peace in the Valley, where Article 370 was seen as a sacred condition of Kashmir’s accession to India in 1948.
The authors of the statement have also written emails detailing their concerns to several government agencies, including the Ministry of Human Resource Development, the Ministry of Science and Technology, the University Grants Commission, the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, and the office of the principal scientific adviser to the government of India.
‘Essential supplies hit’
The second statement, published online on 21 September with hundreds of signatories from leading research institutions such as the International Centre For Theoretical Sciences (ICTS), Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA), Raman Research Institute (RRI), and multiple IITs and IISERs, points to the discomfort faced by residents amid the continuing restrictions.
“We are appalled by the government’s decision to restrict telecommunications and the internet in Kashmir for over a month. We understand that landlines have been restored in some parts of Kashmir, but since landline teledensity in Kashmir is below 1 per cent according to the government’s own statistics, this measure has failed to provide substantive relief to Kashmir’s residents,” it adds.
“In our own institutions, we have witnessed students suffering because they are unable to maintain contact with their families. Moreover, credible reports suggest that these restrictions have made it difficult for ordinary people in Kashmir to procure medical and essential supplies or even for children to attend school,” it states.
The statement, which had gathered over 625 signatures by Thursday, was drafted by Suvrat Raju, Abhishod Prakash and Adhip Agarwala of ICTS and Madhusudan Raman of TIFR.