Can You Imagine Life Without Internet During Pandemic?

by Shahid Mohammad Khan

Can you even imagine this long lockdown without high-speed internet access? How could you imagine your life without internet access?

Well, here in Jammu and Kashmir, internet bans are common and we have been facing one for the past eight months. I question how it is even legal to have an internet ban during a pandemic. During this hard time, it is commonly known how essential internet access is. For the people in Jammu and Kashmir, it is a dream now. Right now every sector of our society has been hard hit by this pandemic – business, education or anything else. How will we survive this pandemic?

On August 5, 2019, as I woke up, and, as usual, I checked my phone. But, I was shocked to see that all communication including internet access, had been banned in my state, because of the revocation of the special status of our state known as article 370. I got stuck in trepidation, as I had not registered for the SAT and TOEFL exams. I was preparing for these examinations for a long time and I found myself unsure as to whether I will be able to take my examinations.

Luckily during that long lockdown, I somehow managed to travel around 800 kilometres to get internet access, but it required that I lived there for around four months and spend huge amounts of money. I went to Delhi and registered myself for those examinations. I am the kind of person who never gives up on anything. But at the same time, I was worried about my family because there was a complete ban on communication as well, which was a horrible thing.

I took both exams and all thanks to my creator that I got a good score. I was working very hard for my applications during that hard time: I am thankful to my father as well who went to my high school during the lockdown to grab my documents from there. I don’t know whether it is bad luck or something else, but during that time Delhi riots took place and there was no other option for me other than to return home.

After coming back I was not able to get any internet access and I was not sure whether my application had been accepted or not. So after a few days, I went to a government office, the only place with internet in the whole district. I waited for some hours because of the huge rush of the people, nearly 300, but as I opened my mailbox I got to know that I had been accepted by top reputed universities like the University of Kansas, University of Massachusetts-Boston, Case Western Reserve University, and UIC. I was happy and almost had tears roll down from my eyes because I worked very hard for that moment.

Shahid Mohammad Khan

But now there was another challenge: university interviews. For that, I needed a healthy internet connection. You cannot work on an internet connection with a speed of around 15 kbps. As I said, life was not that easy for me. And right now, I am not able to participate in my university webinars, or even in my interviews. When we question the government they end up, saying that it is a matter of “national security”. Luckily, real people out there are understanding and they helped me get things sorted out.

Many other students like me also suffered due to this long lockdown on our internet. And right now when one cannot go outside of their place, what you need is a good internet connection. But we had been denied this basic human right over and over again. Students cannot take their online classes, so we are hit hard by this global pandemic as well as by the long lockdown on the internet.

(A student of Candid Higher Secondary School Srinagar, the author has recently qualified SAT and is expected to join the University of Kansas in the USA for further studies. Ideas are personal.)

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