Class 5 student from Kashmir writes to the Prime Minister

‘I feel sad, frustrated, angry and stressed because I could not attend the online classes organised by my school due to 2G connection. Online classes do not work on 2G.’

Srinagar: A Class 5 student in Kashmir has written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi urging restoration of high-speed Internet, after missing the virtual classes started by her school in Srinagar on Monday. The letter has since gone viral on social media.

Hiba Arjimand Wani, a Class 5 student of Srinagar’s Presentation Convent High School, wrote, “I feel sad, frustrated, angry and stressed because I could not attend the online classes organised by my school due to 2G connection. Online classes do not work on 2G.”

Underlining that she had been away from school from August 5 and only attended it for a brief period in March, Ms. Hiba wrote: “I request you [PM] to give back our 4G so that I don’t miss online classes”.

The letter was widely circulated by netizens in Kashmir. Speaking to The Hindu, Ms. Hiba said she was forced to write the letter because the absence of high-speed Internet was hampering her daily learning, which was one major option to help keep her mind away from the COVID-19 scare and the lockdown.

“I cannot access online videos. I have to take the help of my mother’s friends, who are teachers, to guide me on certain subjects,” she added.

Arjimand Hussain Talib, father of Ms. Hiba, said only about 10% of students were able to attend the online classes on Monday. “It was a welcome idea to have these homebound children being taught online with teachers conversing and explaining on the blackboard. We couldn’t login due to 2G speed. In fact, not many students were able to attend these classes,” added Mr. Talib.

Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch, a non-governmental rights group, called upon India to withdraw any restrictions on access to the Internet in Kashmir.

“During a health crisis, access to timely and accurate information is crucial,” said Deborah Brown, senior digital rights researcher and advocate of HRW. “Internet shutdowns block people from getting essential information and services. For many children and others seeking an education, Internet is needed to continue learning as schools shutter around the world,” she added.

Referring to the global pandemic, the rights watchdog said it was time to impose a moratorium on Internet shutdowns. “Governments should ensure immediate access to the fastest and broadest possible service for all,” Ms. Brown added.

The HRW named India among four other countries, including Bangladesh, Ethiopia and Myanmar, where there are restrictions on access to the Internet.

“These countries should prioritise their responsibilities under the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, and avoid complicity in human rights abuses, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the HRW said.

Internet has been partially restored in J&K. Currently, high-speed Internet is only available on the fixed lines, while postpaid mobile connections have a low bandwidth of 2G. Most prepaid connections have no Internet service available.

The Hindu

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