India's 134-day-long internet shutdown in Kashmir is now the longest ever imposed by a democratic state
- The Indian state of Kashmir has been without internet for 134 days, the longest internet blackout ever imposed by a democracy.
- On August 5, the Indian government ended over 70 years of autonomy and statehood for the predominantly Muslim population of Kashmir.
- During a widespread crackdown on protests authorities have reportedly carried out mass detentions of mainstream political figure and, according to internet freedom group Access Now, a total web blackout.
- Raman Jit Singh Chima, Asia-Pacific policy director of Access Now, said it was "unprecedented" for a democracy to block access to the Internet for such an extended time and for such a large population.
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Monday marked 134 days since the embattled Indian state of Kashmir had access to the internet in what activists call the longest ever shutdown by a democracy.
On August 5, the Indian government ended over 70 years of autonomy and statehood for the predominantly Muslim population of Kashmir.
During a widespread crackdown Indian authorities have reportedly carried out mass detentions of mainstream political figures, aggressive policing of anti-government demonstrations and, according to internet freedom group Access Now, a total web blackout.
It is now 134 days since the seven million residents of Kashmir had regular access to the internet beyond a handful of government controlled outlets, the longest denial of access by a democratic state.
Only Myanmar and China have limited internet access for longer periods during security crackdowns, according to Access Now's researchers.
Raman Jit Singh Chima, Asia-Pacific policy director of Access Now, told the Washington Post that it was "unprecedented" for a democracy to block access to the Internet for such an extended time and for such a large population.
Kashmir's internet has been off for so long that people using WhatsApp in the region have had their accounts automatically deleted because of their inaction over the last several months.
The Indian government has defended the move as necessary to disrupt what it calls Pakistani-led terror groups from organising attacks on security forces. Kashmir has an aggressive independence movement supported by Pakistan and opposed to rule by New Delhi.
The region has been the main flashpoint between India and Pakistan since the 1948 partition of the then British colony that led to the formation of both nations.
With a sometimes violent separatist movement advocating independence of the predominantly Muslim state, Kashmir had long been treated as a semi-autonomous region by the Indian government.
Its history has been marked by periodic outbursts of violence by local and Pakistani supported militants against Indian security forces, which have been internationally criticised for often draconian crackdowns on the population.
In an interview with Politico last September, India's foreign minister, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, defended the crackdown and revocation of limited Kashmiri autonomy as the end of a "short term measure," put in place over 70 years ago.
Jaishankar claimed the region's autonomous status was depriving it of economic and political development, while offering India's rival Pakistan a venue to attack the Indian state.
"What was meant as a short-term measure extended to a point where it affected governance, where it affected development and where it created an atmosphere - you know, because of the lack of development - of separatism in some quarters, which then served as an excuse for Pakistan to practice cross-border terrorism," said Jaishankar.
Between 50,000 and 100,000 people have been killed in terror operations, security crackdowns and open warfare since 1948, according to estimates by local political groups and the Indian government.
Pakistan and India have fought major military engagements over the Kashmir issue in 1947, 1965 and most recently in 1999.
On Feb 14, a major militant attack killed an estimated 40 Indian security personnel and led to a dogfight between India and Pakistan's air forces that saw both sides conducting air strikes and the shoot-down of an Indian Air Force jet.
The Indian pilot was captured by Pakistan and almost immediately released to head off further tensions.
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