IN ITS first official response to the legal challenge before the Supreme Court against the communications clampdown in the Valley, the central government argued that the restrictions were “need-based” and “were purely temporary but had become imperative given the history of the state for being on the radar of terrorism”.
“To the credit of the government, not a single bullet has been fired till date and there has not been any loss of life on account of any police firing,” stated the affidavit filed under oath by Manoj Kumar Dwivedi, Secretary, Department of Information and Communication of the J&K administration.
The response comes on a day when a five-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court headed by Justice N V Ramana said it would hear on November 14 petitions challenging the validity of the government’s decision to revoke special status to J&K under Article 370 and reorganise the state into two Union Territories.
The affidavit was filed before a three-judge Bench hearing a plea by Anuradha Bhasin, Executive Editor of Kashmir Times, among others, against the communication curbs. The government reiterated that all local newspapers are being published and all national dailies are being distributed in Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh.
The Centre said it had to take “best possible legal measures and steps in the national interest” and is taken keeping in “view the ground situation which may not be justiciable”.
Defending the Internet ban, the government said that “in view of apprehensions of misuse of data services, which is likely to cause deterioration in law and order situation, requests were made, to service providers, from time to time keeping in mind different zones/areas as per the threat perception at that particular time”.
“It is pertinent to note that there are no restrictions on the movement of media personnel in the state,” the affidavit stated and added that regular press briefings are organised. The affidavit also submitted a list of 32 approved English newspapers and 58 Urdu newspapers that are being published in the state.
The government submitted that free movement in Kashmir is restricted, including the closure of educational events, to “allay any misgivings and avert any untoward happenings”.
“100% of primary, middle and high schools are open in Jammu and Ladakh and 96% of schools are open in Kashmir and also that 100% landlines are functional in the state,” the government said.
The government also said that “over the last few weeks the restrictions have been gradually eased out in a phased manner in order to ensure a smooth return of normalcy…”