By Hilal Mir
SRINAGAR, Jammu and Kashmir (AA) - Internet facilities were restored in two northern districts of Kashmir Valley and five Muslim-majority districts of Jammu region of Indian- administered Jammu and Kashmir on Saturday, according to an order issued by the government.
But Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have been asked to exclude social networking sites and allow only “white-listed” sites.
Asked by the Supreme Court of India to review the six-month internet ban in the region, authorities restored 2G services Jan. 14 in five Hindu-majority districts of Jammu region besides restoring broadband connectivity to hospitals, e-banking and institutions involved in tourism trade.
Kupwara and Bandipora districts in Kashmir will get 2G services but eight of its districts will have to do without internet until further notice. Phone and internet connectivity was shut down midnight Aug. 4, which was one of several measures India took to prevent a backlash against the scrapping of the autonomous status of the region Aug. 5.
As many as 100,000 soldiers had been deployed in anticipation of mass protests, while thousands of people, including separatist leaders and pro-India politicians were detained.
The government order Saturday also announced pre-paid cellphone services, which remained suspended since Aug. 4, have been restored in the entire state. Only "voice and SMS" should be restored for now only after verifying the credentials of the subscribers, the order reads.
In Kashmir Valley, ISP have been also asked to provide fixed-line internet to IT companies.
Restoration of 2G partially, pre-paid and fixed-line services, either partially or fully, coincides with ongoing visit of 36 ministers of the Bharatiya Janata Partyr-ruled government of India. The visit, according to the government, is aimed at interacting with people and inform them "about the development policies with regard to the overall development of Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir and its people, along with the steps taken by the government of India in this direction, particularly in the last five months."
The decision to partially restore Internet came after the Indian Supreme Court on Jan. 10 ordered a review of Internet restrictions within a week.
“Suspension of free movement, Internet and basic freedoms cannot be an arbitrary exercise of power,” the court said. Freedom of speech and expression through the Internet is an "integral part of Article 19 (1)(A) of the constitution," and any "expression of dissent or disagreement against a government decision cannot be reason for Internet suspension," it added.