Internet, SMS services resume in Kashmir

In this photo taken on December 3, 2019, Kashmiri students use the internet at a Tourist Reception Centre (TRC) in Srinagar, as internet facilities have been suspended across the region as part of a partial communication blockade by the Indian government. In remote Indian Kashmir people have been offline since August, queuing for hours to pay bills or using government "internet kiosks". As protests rage, it's something that people elsewhere are also getting a taste of too. Photo: AFP

Broadband internet service and mobile SMS service were restored in government-run hospitals in Kashmir today ending over four and half months of suspension.

Internet services, landline and mobile phones were snapped across Jammu and Kashmir on August 4, a day before the Indian government's announcement of scrapping the Constitution's special status for Jammu and Kashmir and divide it into two federally-ruled territories, reports our New Delhi correspondent.

Though most services, except mobile internet, were restored in Jammu within a week, Kashmir saw landlines and post-paid services being restored in phases.

"It has been decided to restore internet connectivity to all government hospitals with effect from midnight of December 31 besides fully restoring SMS on mobile phones," Jammu and Kashmir administration spokesman Rohit Kansal told reporters in Jammu, the winter capital.

However, Internet and pre-paid mobile services in Kashmir are yet to be restored.

On December 10, he had said machine-based SMSes were enabled for mobile phones in Kashmir in order to facilitate students, scholarship aspirants, traders and others, and that restoration of full message services was part of the process.

"Continuous efforts of the government have been to facilitate and move forward as much as possible and as quickly as possible, and ever since August 5, we have been progressing in this direction both in Jammu and in Kashmir. We have been moving progressively forward and we will try to ensure as much and as quickly as possible," Kansal said in response to a question about restoration of Internet services.

"We have been trying to take all possible steps slowly, surely but firmly in the form of restoration. These steps will continue," said Kansal.

Kansal said the administration in Kashmir is facilitating students, contractors, tour operators, government officials through various internet touch points.

"Nearly 900 such touch points and special counters are functional throughout Kashmir in districts, prominent tourist places and hotels, and about 6 lakh people have taken advantage of these touch points," the spokesman said.

In response to a question on release of detained politicians, including three former chief ministers, Kansal said that "any release or detention, preventive or otherwise, is a decision that is being taken by local law enforcing agencies based on its assessment of the local law and order situation".

Five political leaders, who had been under preventive detention since August 5 were freed on Monday last but former chief ministers Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti are still under detention.