Per. Oca 23rd, 2020

India partially restores mobile internet in Kashmir

– 2G internet restored in 5 of 20 districts, restrictions on social media websites

By Hilal Mir

SRINAGAR, Jammu and Kashmir (AA) – Indian authorities on Wednesday restored mobile internet services in some part of Jammu and Kashmir, conspicuously leaving out Muslim-majority districts.

The five districts of Jammu province which got back internet connectivity are Hindu-majority. Even in these districts, mobile internet users can access only “white listed” sites, like e-banking and government websites, not social networking sites.

The mobile internet blockade was imposed in the aftermath of controversial scrapping of laws which guaranteed the region's autonomy last August.

An order issued by the government calls upon internet service providers to install “necessary firewalls and carry out white listing of sites” that would enable the people to access websites dealing with essential services” but exclude all social media applications.

Government spokesman Rohit Kansal said in a statement that in insurgency-hit Kashmir region broadband services will be restored and 400 additional internet kiosks will be set up by the government.

The decision to partially restore internet came after the Indian Supreme Court last Friday ruled that access to internet is a fundamental right.

“Suspension of free movement, Internet and basic freedoms cannot be an arbitrary exercise of power,” the court had said.

However, the government order that announced restoration of internet, said the blockade was imposed to prevent alleged terrorist propaganda.

Observers say the partial restoration of internet is aimed at placating the top court and create an illusion of normalcy in the disputed region.

Meanwhile, many foreign tourists remain stranded in the scenic region unable to contact their families back home.

Reena, a Malaysian tourist who only gave her first name, told Anadolu Agency that she has witnessed an internet blackout for the first time in her life.

“It has been very disorienting,” she said.

Jammu and Kashmir has been under continuous lockdown since Aug. 5 last year when India scrapped provisions of Article 370 of its Constitution that provided a certain degree of autonomy and protected region’s demographic character.

India and Pakistan both hold Kashmir in parts and claim it in full. China also controls part of the contested region, but it is India and Pakistan which have fought two wars over Kashmir.