Indian fashion designer Saira Tramboo had long dreamed of setting up her own online brand – but frequent internet shutdowns imposed by authorities to quell dissent in her home state of Kashmir made it impossible.
When reliable, high-speed connections were finally reinstated last year, Tramboo began selling her designs on Instagram, joining numerous women and startups using the internet to create new business opportunities in the region.
“The internet means life to me,” said Tramboo, 27, who has more than 40,000 followers on her virtual storefront and employs three women to help process orders for her traditional embroidered tunics and other items.
“It has not only helped me become independent and earn a good amount of money, but it also helped me create job opportunities for others.”
The government withdrew Kashmir’s autonomous status in 2019 and split the state into two federal territories, aiming to tighten its grip on a restive Muslim-majority region where separatists have fought Indian rule for decades.
Anticipating major unrest, authorities imposed a communications blackout in Kashmir, cutting off phone and internet connections. Heavy restrictions lasted until February 2021, when 4G mobile data services were reinstated in the region.
The region had the least number of disruptions this year since 2017, according to advocacy group Software Freedom Law Center India.
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