Internet partially restored in Kashmir after 165 days - social media still blocked

J&K Broadband internet partially restored but ban on social media remains

The Jammu and Kashmir administration Tuesday made a decision 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. The process, which will be conducted in phases, will start today. It asks them to appoint nodal officers for managing and monitoring Internet use, keep a record of users, and change accessibility credentials every day.

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. "To amplify, there shall be complete restriction on social media applications allowing peer to peer communication and virtual private network applications for the time being", reads the order issued by government.

According to the order, the government has chose to resume low-speed 2G internet service on postpaid mobile phones only in the districts of Jammu, Samba, Kathua, Udhampur and Reasi from Thursday, January 15.

Hotels and tour and travel establishments will also be able to have access to broadband internet in order to facilitate tourism.

The institutions and government offices that are being provided Internet access shall be responsible to prevent misuse, according to the order.

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The government, in the order, reiterates that "the 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..."

In a three-page order, the home department said additional 400 internet kiosks will be established in Kashmir division.

All mobile and broadband internet connections have been suspended in Kashmir since 5 August, when the BJP government, led by Narendra Modi, revoked the decades-long special status of Jammu and Kashmir, which had given the region autonomy, and split the state into two territories under the direct control of Delhi. This, the court said, should be done within a week.

Some mobile phone and landline services were restored in October, but the indefinite internet suspension has crippled daily life, the media and businesses. "Suspension of free movement, internet and basic freedoms can not be an arbitrary exercise of power", it said in its order. The SC had declared that freedom of speech and expression and also freedom of of trade and commerce through the medium of internet are constitutionally protected rights under Articles 19 (1)(a) and Articles 19 (1)(g), respectively. "It can't be used as a tool to oppress difference of opinion", the court said. The bench instructed the government to publish in the public domain all the orders imposing restrictions so that they can be challenged in courts.

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