Wednesday, 12 February 2020

Deaf denied internet access.

 

A Deaf man from J&K travelled all alone to Punjab just to use the internet. Let me tell you about his story. On 5th August 2019, when the Indian government divided J&K into the two territories all communication lines in J&K were cut off. Although the postpaid mobile phones sprang back to life more than two months later, the internet continues to remain off. 

He cannot speak or hear. He uses sign language to communicate with his family and friends. Tajamul's father said, "He was extremely fed up with the internet ban as he could hardly connect to any of his deaf friends". "He would frequently make video calls to his friends and chat with them", He added that the long-drawn-out internet ban has made him, and many other Deaf people feel very isolated.” Tajamul knows very basic sign language and has completed his education in various institutes in Kashmir. He would spend a lot of time on the internet to learn the language but the internet ban has also disrupted his learning process. For almost 6 months, the internet has been down in J&K. 

Many petitions were in Supreme Court about this. On January 10 the SC said that all Indians have a right to Freedom of Speech and conduct any form of business through the internet. This is why on 14th January the government restored the internet in all government institutions. The ban, however, continued for the general public. Tajamul was desperate to use the internet. He had not communicated with his Deaf friends for so many months and felt very lonely. This is why he decided to convince his father to allow him to go to Amritsar. As soon as Tajamul reached Amritsar, he checked into the hotel and connected his phone to Wi-fi. 

Within seconds he began receiving the messages at fairly good speed from his outstation friends. He responded to their messages and also made video calls to some of them. Tajamul said, "They felt so happy to see my face after so many months. Even we shed tears of joy," Saleem Pathan(16), another deaf boy from Bemina, Srinagar. He would use the internet to make video calls to his deaf friends. But when the internet shut down he became very frustrated.

Another Deaf boy in J&K is forcing his family to leave the state as he is unable to communicate with his friend in Delhi & Chandigarh. Many other deaf-mute persons have said that the internet ban has been gnawing at their minds and spirits. Umar Ashraf Beig, General Secretary All Jammu and Kashmir Association for the Deaf, has sought the immediate lifting of internet service in J&K because the ban has caused a lot of suffering and trouble to the local Deaf people.

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