Limited internet back in Kashmir; social media ban stays


Limited internet access was restored in Jammu and Kashmir on Saturday, January 25, ending nearly six months of being cut-off from the online world, after Prime Minister Narendra Modi withdrew the Muslim majority region’s autonomy.

Access will be limited to about 300 “whitelisted” websites and internet speed would remain low, the local Jammu and Kashmir government said in a notice.

However, social media applications that allow “peer to peer” communication would continue to be banned, it said.

The internet shutdown in Kashmir, which has lasted for more than 150 days, is the longest such outage in any democracy, according to the digital rights group Access Now.

The decision to restore internet access will be reviewed on January 31 and it will be decided then whether to keep it open or block access again, the notice added.

The move to restore the services comes days after the Supreme Court of India ordered the curbs to be reversed, saying that freedom of internet access is a fundamental right and that its indefinite suspension is illegal.

Modi’s Hindu-nationalist government has frequently used internet shutdowns as a tool to quell dissent in troubled parts of the country.

It has argued that the blackout was needed to maintain order in the Himalayan region where security forces have been fighting a long-running separatist insurgency encouraged by neighbouring Pakistan.

The internet lockdown in Kashmir since August 5 has severely disrupted the lives of millions, affecting everything from college admissions to bank payments and businesses filing tax returns.

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

While the local government restored limited internet service in some parts of the region earlier in January, some people are still struggling to get online.

NasirNabi, a student from Kupwara district, where some services were restored, is pursuing a master’s degree through a distance learning course and has been unable to access the university’s website.

Because of the slow internet speed, the 23-year-old has not been able to download the study material or get information about any examinations.

Shameem Ahmad, a shopkeeper from the same region, said he has found it difficult to complete bank transactions as the internet speed is very slow and most of the times it fails to process the request. (Source: Bangkok Post)