2G Mobile Internet Services To Be Restored In Kashmir, With Restrictions

The centre had clamped down on Jammu and Kashmir after the decision to scrap its special status.

New Delhi:

The Jammu and Kashmir administration has decided to restore broadband and mobile Internet connectivity across the union territory starting Saturday, but with restrictions. Internet access will be limited only to “whitelisted” websites, and social media platforms will remain out of bounds for its residents.

Internet connectivity extended to the region will rely on the relatively slower 2G technology. Data services will be available on postpaid as well as prepaid sim cards, the release said, adding that the relaxation on restrictions will come up for review again on January 31.

Six months have passed since the centre imposed the Internet blackout to prevent public reprisals against the decision to scrap Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and bifurcate it into two union territories. With this move, data access has been extended across the union territory.

“It is hereby directed that mobile data services and Internet access through fixedline shall be allowed across the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir with the following restrictions… The aforesaid direction shall come into effect from January 25, 2020, and remain in force till January 31, 2020, unless modified earlier,” read the order issued by the home department of the Jammu and Kashmir administration on Friday.

The extended Internet blackout in Jammu and Kashmir had drawn condemnation from rights activists and agencies across the world. Restoration of broadband connectivity, taken up on January 15, was also limited to accessing “government websites and websites dealing with essential services, e-banking, etc”,  a previous order from the Lieutenant Governor read.

The decision to partially restore Internet came after the Supreme Court, in response to a petition earlier this month, ordered a review of all restrictive orders that are still in place. “Suspension of free movement, Internet and basic freedoms cannot be an arbitrary exercise of power,” the court had said then, adding that Internet connectivity is integral to an individual’s right to freedom of speech and expression.

The three-judge bench led by Justice NV Ramanna also maintained that “expression of dissent or disagreement against a government decision cannot be reason enough for Internet suspension”.

However, some senior officials in the centre — such as NITI Aayog member VK Saraswat — continue to maintain that imposing the communications blackout on Jammu and Kashmir was a positive step.
“What difference does it make if there is no Internet? You only watch dirty films,” he lashed out recently. 

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