Due To Prolonged Internet Ban, WhatsApp Policy Forces It To Disable Many Users In Kashimir


The messaging app WhatsApp was created with a noble purpose.

Jan Koum, its founder, was an immigrant. The facts of his life fueled his passion to create something that "helps". And WhatsApp was the product to help people connect with ease, anywhere they are, as long as they have a phone number and an internet connection.

But due to the company's policy, WhatsApp was forced to disable many users from Kashmir after four months of internet shutdown in the state.

This was the result of a decision back in August, when the Indian government scrapped Article 370 to remove the state from its autonomous stature, and also enforced an internet ban to maintain law and order.

On December 4, exactly four months after the shutdown, a lot of users from the region took to Twitter to report that their WhatsApp accounts had been disabled.

Journalists held a silent demonstration against the internet ban in Kashmir
In November 2019, journalists held a silent demonstration against the internet ban in Srinagar, the largest city and the summer capital of the Indian union territory of Jammu and Kashmir. (Credit: AFP Photo)

According to a WhatsApp spokesperson, the company has a global policy of expiring accounts after 120 days of inactivity, saying that:

"WhatsApp cares deeply about providing users everywhere with the ability to privately communicate with their friends and loved ones. To maintain security and limit data retention, WhatsApp accounts generally expire after 120 days of inactivity. When that happens, those accounts automatically exit all their WhatsApp groups. People will need to be re-added to groups upon regaining access to the internet and joining WhatsApp again."

The statement also noted that users that were disabled because of this, can still re-register to WhatsApp using the same number, when they regain internet access.

As long as their data is attached to WhatsApp, these users should be able to access it once account is re-activated.

67% of the world’s documented shutdowns took place in India in 2018, and Kashmir experienced more than hundred of shutdowns, considered the highest for any state in India.

Until this time, the region also holds the record for the longest shutdown of 133 days in 2016.

At that time, services remained suspended for nearly five months after the death of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, the leader of a pro-Pakistani separatist organization. The third longest was a 100-day shutdown in West Bengal’s Darjeeling in June 2017, which was linked to the agitation for Gorkhaland.

Prolonged network disruption like what happens in Kashmir, impacts how people in the region lives and communicate.

For people who depend on the internet for a living, like many youngsters and software developers, for example, were forced to either migrate to other states, and look for new job opportunities to ensure their presence online and earn money.

Despite the J&K (Jammu and Kashmir) administration repeatedly vows to ensure jobs for youngsters and launches various schemes for skill enhancement, reports said that the government-enforced internet shutdowns across the region has resulted in huge job cuts in private sector.

What makes things worse in Kashmir is that, the impact of the communication blockade is often missed in the topics of politics.