A large number of Kashmiri people resorted to VPN to circumvent the Internet ban in the region. However, the local authorities in Kashmir have decided to open a case against the people who are using VPN to promote “unlawful activities and secessionist ideology.”
The Indian Government banned internet access in Jammu and Kashmir after the scrapping of Article 370, which granted special status to the state. Various human rights activists criticized the Government for snatching the fundamental rights of people in the region.
So, a few weeks before, access to several websites was finally restored. The permitted sites include shopping websites like Amazon, Flipkart, and a few selected news outlets.
Even after permitting access to 1,485 websites, the internet speed is restricted only to 2mbps. Also, access to social media websites like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter is still denied. That is why hundreds of local people started using VPN to find their way to social media platforms.
Tahir Ashraf, the head of the cyber police division in Srinagar, said that most of the suspected VPN users are using social media to spread misinformation and promote unlawful activities. So, the local police decided to file an FIR under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
Vijay Kumar, the J&K Inspector General of Police, also urged local people to not to use VPN to access social media.
J&K police files FIR under UA (P) and IT act against individuals for defying government orders and misusing social media. IGP Kashmir,Vijay Kumar, makes an "appeal" to general public not to use social media through VPN's.#Kashmir pic.twitter.com/ovaTb3YB3D
— Azaan Javaid (@AzaanJavaid) February 17, 2020
Following the news that hundreds of Kashmiri people might get prosecuted because of using a VPN, the Internet Freedom Foundation(IFF) took to Twitter to condemn the local police.
With reports emerging that internet users may be prosecuted for using social media through VPNs in Kashmir, it is important to note that there is no publicly available blocking order prohibiting VPNs under Section 69A, IT Act. (1/3)
— Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF) (@internetfreedom) February 18, 2020
Instead of lodging FIRs against people using VPNs to access social media platforms, the Indian government should simply restore internet access.