Seven months after Internet restrictions were imposed in the then state of Jammu and Kashmir on the eve of the abrogation of Article 370, the J&K administration Wednesday removed curbs on use of social media across the Union Territory. Mobile Internet will, however, remain restricted to 2G speed. A review is scheduled for March 17.
By late evening, Internet was restored on majority mobile phone networks across Kashmir. People rushed to pay bills and recover WhatsApp accounts rendered inactive after four months due to lack of connectivity.
The restrictions were removed following a review by the J&K Home Department early Wednesday. For fixed line services, there will not be any speed restriction although Internet services will be made available with Mac-IP binding (ensuring a client machine works from a particular IP address and Mac address).
Government sources told The Indian Express that after the review, “it was decided to lift 7 months later, Internet back in J&K, slow but much more sure restrictions on Internet across Jammu & Kashmir”. The restrictions on Internet, sources said, were hampering anti-militancy operations in the Valley and “lifting of curbs was essential to enhance interception capacity of intelligence agencies”.
The order issued Wednesday, without the requisite “whitelist” of websites, stated “while keeping in view the aspects of reasonability of restrictions with regard to the principle of proportionality and consideration of available alternatives,” Internet access will be made available throughout the UT of J&K with the restriction of speed to 2G with regard to mobile Internet and on pre-paid mobiles “unless verified as per the norms applicable for post-paid connections”.
Until now, Internet access on mobile and fixed line services was limited to 1674 websites “whitelisted” by the administration, up from the initial 153 websites-limit.
In the wake of multiple FIRs filed by the J&K Police against alleged misuse of social media accessed through VPN “in violation of a government order”, at least five persons were arrested in the last three weeks.
J&K DGP Dilbag Singh said: “Social media monitoring will continue and anybody resorting to any misuse will be booked under law.”
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