India's top court declares indefinite Kashmir internet shutdown illegal

India's top court declares indefinite Kashmir internet shutdown illegal
New Delhi revoked Kashmir's semi-autonomous status in early August.
2 min read
10 January, 2020
Kashmir has suffered an internet blackout since August [Getty]
India's Supreme Court on Friday struck down a months-long internet shutdown in the disputed Kashmir region, declaring the move illegal.

New Delhi cut off internet and phone access to Indian-administered Kashmir in early August as the government moved to withdraw the Muslim majority region's long-held semi-autonomous status. 

Indefinite suspension of internet access violates India's telecom rules, the court ruled.

"Freedom of Internet access is a fundamental right," Supreme Court justice N V Ramana said according to Reuters.

The Supreme Court has ordered India's government to review all curbs on telecoms access in Kashmir within a week.

Access to the restive region has been restricted since August, when Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir state were stripped of its partial autonomy and split into two regions ruled directly from New Delhi.

This move was accompanied by a harsh crackdown, with New Delhi sending tens of thousands of additional troops to the already heavily militarised region, imposing a sweeping curfew, arresting thousands and cutting virtually all communications.

Read more: Democracy languishes in Modi's anti-Muslim India

Authorities have since eased several restrictions, lifting roadblocks and restoring landlines and cellphone services. The internet service is yet to be restored in the Kashmir valley. They have encouraged students to return to school and businesses to reopen, but top political leaders from the region continue to be under arrest or detention.

India and Pakistan, who Kashmir was split between at the end of British colonial rule in 1947, have fought two of their three wars over the territory.

Last month, New Delhi also suspended internet and phone services in parts of India hit by mass protests against a controversial citizenship ammendment.

Critics say the new citizenship law is the latest move by the Hindu nationalist government to target India's large Muslim minority.

The law gives a path to citizenship for "illegal" migrants from three neighbouring countries, but only if they are not Muslim.

Critics fear the ammendment will see thousands of Muslims stripped of their citizenship and deported or detained. Many impoverished Indians lack the necessary documents to prove their citizenship status.

At least 27 people have died in the protests in recent weeks and hundreds more have been injured in clashes with police, fuelling public anger.

Nineteen of the deaths have been reported in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, where police have been accused of using disproportionate force against protesters.

Follow us on Twitter and Instagram to stay connected