68 days later, mobile services to return in Valley from Monday

Naveed Iqbal
J&K Principal Secretary Rohit Kansal said there has been a gradual removal of restrictions since August 16 and by the first week of September, most restrictions were removed. (Express Photo By Shuaib Masoodi)

After 68 days of a communication lockdown in Kashmir, authorities on Saturday announced that post-paid mobile phone services — around 40 lakh in the Valley — would be made operational from noon on Monday.

“Having reviewed the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, a decision has been taken to restore mobile-phone facilities in all the remaining areas of Jammu and Kashmir. More specifically, all post-paid mobile phones, irrespective of the telecom service provider, will stand restored and be functional from 12 noon on Monday, October 14, 2019,” J&K government spokesperson Rohit Kansal said.

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However, over 20 lakh prepaid mobile phones, and mobile and other Internet services will remain deactivated for now.

Since August 16, the administration has been easing restrictions in a phased manner. Partial fixed-line telephony was resumed in the Valley on August 17 and by September 4, nearly 50,000 landlines were declared operational. In Jammu and Ladakh, mobile phones had been made functional earlier.

Mobile phones were also made functional in Kupwara district of Kashmir shortly after. While educational institutions are also open, attendance has been slim.

A Kashmiri woman walks through an empty street in Anchar neighbourhood, during restrictions following the scrapping of the special constitutional status. (File)

Underscoring that the move to restore post-paid mobile would help people, Kansal said, “With this step, tourists will be able to visit the state without being handicapped by the lack of phone connectivity, students can be in touch with parents while attending school, businessmen can be in touch with customers, transporters can contact clients and contractors can be in touch with staff.”

The restoration of cellphone services is part of a series of announcements by the administration on easing of restrictions that were imposed around August 5, when J&K was stripped of its special status.

Earlier this week, the administration lifted the tourist advisory issued days before August 5, asking tourists to leave the Valley. “For now, Internet will be made available to tourists at three places — Gulmarg, Sonmarg and Pahalgam,” Kansal told The Indian Express.

While re-initiating mobile services for Kashmir, the state administration maintained that “credible inputs continue to be received of the likelihood of large-scale terrorist attacks sponsored by forces inimical to the nation and from outside its borders”.

Adding that 99 per cent of the state was now free of any restrictions on movement, the government spokesperson also stated that “a number of restrictions were imposed from August 4 in order to prevent externally aided terrorists from disturbing peace and inflicting casualties on innocent citizens”. He also stated that banned organisations such as Lashkar-e-Toiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed and Hizbul Mujahideen “continue to make attempts to terrorise the people of Jammu & Kashmir”.

Internet and mobile connectivity, landline phones were snapped on the intervening night of August 4 and 5, ahead of the Centre decision to bring about constitutional changes to the state of Jammu and Kashmir, bifurcating it into two Union territories — J&K and Ladakh.