After 168 days of complete shutdown, the Center, on Saturday (January 18), decided to restore all prepaid mobile connections in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). The decision came within a week of lifting the ban on accessing government websites. However, the blockade on social media websites in the region still continues.
Rohit Kansal, the official spokesperson for the J&K government, said that services such as voice calling and short messaging service (SMS) on all local prepaid SIM cards across J&K have been restored (with effect from Saturday). However, for 2G internet services, Kansal said that only postpaid customers can access the whitelisted sites.
The internet shutdown began in early August 2019, a few days before the abrogation of Article 370, which split the state into two union territories of J&K and Ladakh, taking away the special rights assigned to the region.
Partial Access To Internet
On January 15, 2020, the government had restored the internet services in J&K after a blackout of five months. However, as of now, only postpaid users can only access 153 whitelisted websites using 2G internet services.
Moreover, the government hasn’t rolled out these services for the entire J&K. “2G mobile data services on the postpaid mobiles for accessing whitelisted sites shall be allowed in all 10 districts of Jammu division, besides Kupwara and Bandipora districts of the Kashmir Valley,” Kansal was quoted as saying by The Hindu. The internet services in Srinagar and seven other districts of the Kashmir valley still remain suspended.
Explaining the motivation behind suspending the internet in the region, the government had said that the services were being used by anti-national elements to promote cross-border terrorism, incitement, spreading fake news, among others. The authorities also said that in the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India and for maintaining public order in J&K, they have decided to restore services in a phased manner.
While the internet restoration was expected to facilitate services such as banking, education, travel, and employment by this partial restoration of online services, users in the union territory are reportedly complaining that they are unable to access even these 153 websites.
The government official further added that the telecom companies have been directed to initiate the verification process of their prepaid subscribers to completely restore 2G services as soon as possible.