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J&K administration lifts off internet ban in Kashmir after 7 months, allows social media access

J&K administration lifts off internet ban in Kashmir after 7 months, allows social media access

India Blooms News Service | @indiablooms | 04 Mar 2020, 04:48 pm

Srinagar/IBNS: The administration has finally decided to lift off the ban on broadband internet services in the Kashmir Valley after seven months while providing access to social media as well.

However, mobile internet services will be continued to be restricted with only low-speed 2G networks operational. High-speed 4G networks will remain blocked.

Principal Secretary (Home) of the Jammu and Kashmir government, Shaleen Kabra, has issued an order stating that unfettered access to social media platforms and other websites on wired broadband lines, and 2G networks was effective only till March 17 unless extended before then.

The Centre imposed the internet services' restrictions following its decision to scrap Article 370 in the Kashmir Valley in August last year.

After the removal of the ban on internet, former J&K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti's daughter Iltija said the J&K administration had "finally realised the futility of a ban."

"Seems like J&K admin finally realised futility of ban on social media since Kashmiris circumvented it through VPNs (virtual private network). Simply became a cat & mouse chase where Kashmiris outwitted state apparatus i.e., Big Brother," Iltija tweeted on behalf of her mother, who along with two other former CMs Farooq Abdullah and his son Omar, remains detained.

In another emotional tweet, Iltija wrote: "My mother last tweeted on 5th August post abrogation of Article 370. Today as I tweet for the first time from Kashmir post decriminalisation of social media, Im swept by saudade & painful nostalgia. Will we ever heal? When will this nightmare end?"

Last month, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti had been charged under the Public Safety Act, a stringent law that allows detention without trial for up to three months.

Omar's father, Farooq Abdullah was charged under the same law last September and has been under house arrest since August as well.

Omar Abdullah, his father Farooq Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti are kept under house arrest since the abrogation of Article 370 in August last year.

Since last August, the Kashmir Valley has been without unconditional broadband access.

The decision to partially restore internet came after the Supreme Court in its Jan 10 order asked for a review of all restrictions still in place.

The court had then given a time limit of a week.

"Suspension of free movement, internet and basic freedoms cannot be an arbitrary exercise of power," the Supreme Court had said.

It added that "mere expression of dissent or disagreement against a government decision cannot be reason for Internet suspension."

The court had also observed that "such suspension can only be for a limited time and is subject to judicial review".

Following the order, the government had partially restored internet access to certain institutions in the valley.

It allowed only a few numbers of government-approved websites to be operational while blocking all social media sites.

The Centre had earlier justified the internet blocking as preventive measure following Narendra Modi government's historic step to bifurcate Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories and scrapping of  Article 35 A and Article 370 which were used to give J&K a special status.

Kashmir has witnessed the longest shutdown of internet services since then, which also impacted their economy and resulted in a huge number of people losing jobs.