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News > India

India Partially Lifts Mobile Lockdown in Kashmir, Not Internet

  • An unknown number of political leaders, activists and common people have been arrested as the government anticipated public backlash against its contentious move.

    An unknown number of political leaders, activists and common people have been arrested as the government anticipated public backlash against its contentious move. | Photo: Reuters

Published 14 October 2019

Internet services remained suspended in the region.

Mobile phone services were partially restored in occupied Kashmir Monday, some 70 days after the government imposed a communications blockade in the state before the disputed region was stripped of its semi-autonomous status.

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The restoration of post-paid cell phone services has brought relief to the people as the communications curfew had hit people’s access to healthcare and other emergency services, although restrictions were gradually eased with landlines being restored in September.

The state administration had on Saturday promised that it would lift curbs on “all post-paid mobile phones” from noon on Monday.

Rohit Kansal, the principal secretary and chief spokesperson of the Kashmir government, said 40 percent of all cellphone users in Kashmir have post-paid subscription, which is “highest” in India.

But according to an official at the government-run telecom service provider, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited, the figure was around 30 percent.

“Only 30 percent mobile phone customers use post-paid services while, (the) majority of them rely on pre-paid services,” the BSNL official told EFE, requesting anonymity because he is not authorized to talk to media.

A police officer in Srinagar told EFE that curbs on pre-paid cell phone services would be lifted as and when the situation improves.

“The situation is being reviewed regularly, and any decision about the restoration of pre-paid mobile and internet services will be taken once the situation improves further,” said the official, wishing anonymity.

Witnesses said that people across the valley had gathered in long queues at cell phone service providers to buy new post-paid mobile connections.

The mobile phone services were suspended in the region on the night of Aug. 4, hours before the government introduced and got approved a legislation in the parliament that scrapped the semi-autonomous status of the only Muslim majority state in India.

The region is observing an indefinite shutdown since Aug. 5 as the government has deployed additional troops numbering in tens of thousands in the troubled region to implement Section 144, which does not allow more than four persons to assemble.

The ruling over Occupied Kashmir will now allow Indian Hindus to purchase properties in Jammu and Kashmir, which activists say warned would be a similar policy to that of Israeli settlements in Palestine. 

Along with revoking the special status, the government divided the state in two Union Territories, meaning they will be ruled by the federal government while losing statehood. 

“My brother is among hundreds arrested in our area and my father has gone to meet him there. I was just talking to my father who has reached Uttar Pradesh now,” Nusrat, a resident of south Kashmir’s Pulwama, told EFE.

According to people interviewed by India Today, many people can still not communicate with other members of their families across Kashmir, while others complained about paying the same bill as if the service had remained.

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