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4G internet service restored in Indian Kashmir after 18 months

Srinagar, India, Feb 6 (efe-epa).- High speed 4G internet service was restored in Indian Kashmir on Saturday after remaining suspended for 18 months.

High speed mobile internet had been blocked in the country’s only Muslim-majority region in August 2019 to prevent social media mobilizations against the withdrawal its special status.

“After careful review of the overall security scenario, I hereby revoke the restrictions on mobile data services and fixed line internet connectivity,” Principal Secretary to the regional government, Shaleen Kabra, said in his order issued overnight.

However, the order underlined that in the case of pre-paid SIM card users, they would have to undergo a verification process before the authorities before being granted access to high speed internet.

The resumption of 4G services comes after the government in March last year allowed 2G mobile Internet access.

Students and the business community have welcomed the latest move to ease restrictions, believing that it will help them with their studies and facilitate business, respectively.

Human rights activists, however, see the measure as insufficient, as “dissenting voices have been silenced and social media is being monitored under the garb of the terminology like ‘national security’,” activist Khurram Parvez told EFE.

“Not only social media but even the local mainstream media is muzzled by the ‘new media policy’ announced recently,” academic and commentator Raashid Maqbool told EFE.

On Aug. 5, Internet internet services were blocked hours before the Indian government suspended the special status that Jammu and Kashmir had enjoyed for more than seven decades, and divided the state into two Union Territories directly administered by New Delhi.

The government clamped a communications blackout with phone and internet lines snapped for months as tens of thousands of armed forces were moved in to thwart street protests in what was already one of the most militarized regions in the world.

The security forces also arrested an unspecified number of politicians, activists and citizens – several official sources claimed the number ran into thousands -, with several dozens of them still in “preventive custody”.

Among those detained politicians was former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Omar Abdullah, who was released on Mar. 24.

Abdullah welcomed the government’s move to resume 4G internet and tweeted that “for the first time since Aug 2019 all of J&K will have 4G mobile data. Better late than never.”

The idyllic Himalayan territory of Kashmir has been at the center of India-Pakistan hostilities since 1947 when the British rulers of the subcontinent divided it into the two new countries.

Since then, the two nuclear-powered neighbors have fought three wars and numerous minor conflicts over Kashmir.

Since the 1990s, the region has witnessed an armed insurgency, which the Indian government claims is supported by Pakistan. EFE-EPA

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