The Centre has finally restored 4G internet services in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) for the first time since the abrogation of Article 370 in August 2019. Since then, the erstwhile state has been established as a Union Territory.
Shaleen Kabra, Principal Secretary of the Home Department, issued a notification and directed the Inspectors General of Kashmir and Jammu to closely monitor the impact of lifting the restrictions. The two-page order said an objective assessment of the prevailing circumstances and necessity of continuation of these restrictions was taken by a special committee constituted on the directions of the Supreme Court order of May 11, 2020.
The committee held a meeting on February 4 during which among other things, it took note of the inputs and apprehensions of the security agencies and police forces as also the assessment of opening of high speed mobile internet connectivity. However, the order made it clear that high speed internet facility on pre-paid SIM card holders would be provided only after verification as per the norms applicable for post-paid connections.
Internet services was completely shut in J&K on August 5, 2019 when the government announced the abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution and also its bifurcation into two union territories – J&K, and Ladakh. 2G services were restored on January 25, 2020 and 4G services on mobile devices in Ganderbal in Kashmir division and Udhampur in Jammu region was restarted in August 2020. The areas selected for high-speed internet services were those having low-intensity terrorist activities and minimal spillover effects on neighboring areas.
Anuradha Bhasin, Editor of Kashmir Times, had approached the Supreme Court on August 10, 2019 challenging the restrictions on internet and telecommunications which were imposed in J&K in a bid to stifle protests and dissents which were widely anticipated with the abrogation of the contentious Article.
Tweeting his happiness on the restore of high speed internet services, Omar Abdullah, the former chief minister of J&K commended the Centre’s move. “4G Mubarak!” he said. “For the first time since Aug 2019, all of J&K will have 4G mobile data. Better late than never.”