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  • FILE PHOTO: Kashmiri journalists display laptops and placards during a protest demanding restoration of internet service, in Srinagar, November 12, 2019.

    FILE PHOTO: Kashmiri journalists display laptops and placards during a protest demanding restoration of internet service, in Srinagar, November 12, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 25 January 2020
Opinion

Social media applications that allow “peer to peer” communication will continue to be banned for the Muslim-majority area's more than seven million people. 

Indian authorities announced Friday that low-speed mobile (2G) internet will be restored on Saturday in occupied Kashmir but only limited to about 300 “whitelisted” sites.

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The local Jammu and Kashmir government said social media applications that allow “peer to peer” communication will continue to be banned for the Muslim-majority area's more than seven million people. 

"Mobile data services and internet access through fixed-line shall be allowed through the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir with some restrictions," said a notification issued by the federal territory's home department.

Access will temporarily be allowed to websites of banks like State Bank of India and HDFC, education institutions, news, entertainment sites including Amazon Prime, travel, utilities, and food delivery apps like Swiggy and Zomato as well as email and search engines including Google and Yahoo.

This comes as India’s Supreme Court ruled that the gag-order to be reversed saying that “suspension of free movement, internet, and basic freedoms cannot be an arbitrary exercise of power," and that its indefinite suspension is illegal. The decision will be reviewed on Jan. 31.

The region is observing an indefinite shutdown since Aug. 5 when far-right President Narendra Modi’s government revoked the special status of Kashmir and Jammu by removing a constitutional provision that prevented non-Kashmiris to purchase any property in the Muslim-majority state. 

The move will now allow Indian Hindus can purchase properties in the occupied territory, 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. 

This resulted in protests to which the government 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. Hundreds of local politicians, lawyers, and activists still remain in detention.

Access to postpaid mobile phones was only restored on Oct. 14. The internet shutdown in Kashmir, which has been on for nearly six months, is the longest such outage in any democracy, according to digital rights group Access Now.

The constitutional provisions revoked were the bedrock of the treaty of accession from 1947 through which Jammu and Kashmir's ruler acceded his region to Indian territory.

For 30 years, Occupied Kashmir is fighting for its independence in which at least 50,000 people have been killed. Critics say the decision to revoke autonomy will cause further alienation and fuel the armed resistance.

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