Internet to be partially restored in Kashmir but social media ban stays

Alonzo Simpson
January 15, 2020

The order said internet service providers will offer broadband facility (with Mac binding) to all institutions dealing with essential services, hospitals, banks and government offices. According to sources, the government is set to restore broadband internet in the Kashmir Valley and low speed internet in the Jammu region, the sources said, adding that the formal announcement in this regard is likely to be made by government spokesman Rohit Kansal.

Existing access and communication facilities in Kashmir will be further enhanced by establishing an additional 400 internet kiosks, Kansal said.

Furthermore, internet service providers will be expected to install firewalls to prevent access to sites apart from specific "white-listed" ones such as government websites.

However, access to all social media sites has been banned in both Jammu and Kashmir divisions.

"There shall be complete restriction on social media applications allowing peer-to-peer communication and virtual private network applications for the time being", the order issued by Shaleen Kabra, principal secretary of the Home Department of Jammu and Kashmir.

The Jammu and Kashmir administration Tuesday chose to restore broadband services in all government offices, institutions offering essential services such as hospitals and banks, and tourism-linked establishments, amid indications that the facility may be extended to the "general public" after the Republic Day celebrations on January 26.

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It said misuse of data services by anti-national elements has the potential to cause large-scale violence and disturb public order "which has till now been maintained due to various pre-emptive measures, including restrictions on access to internet with relaxations in a calibrated and gradual manner, after due consideration of the ground situation".

With 160 days already over and counting, January is the sixth straight month of the curbs that were imposed on the night of August 4-5, 2019, when Jammu and Kashmir was stripped of its special status, divided and downgraded into two Centrally controlled Union territories - Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh. It asks them to appoint nodal officers for managing and monitoring Internet use, keep a record of users, and change accessibility credentials every day.

On Friday, the Supreme Court ruled that "freedom of speech and expression and the freedom to practice any profession or carry on any trade, business or occupation over the medium of Internet enjoys constitutional protection under Article 19 (1) (a) and Article 19 (1) (g)".

As per an idea that came to Union home minister Amit Shah, no less than 36 Union ministers will visit Jammu & Kashmir, including sensitive areas, in a week-long blitz starting January 18.

The militants, as per the government, do so by communicating through Voice on Internet Protocol (VOIP) and encrypted mobile communication through various social media applications.

The order will be effective from January 15 and remain in force for 7 days, unless modified earlier.

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