THE GOVERNMENT is likely to take a final call on the restoration of 4G mobile Internet services in the Kashmir Valley after Independence Day celebrations are over next month, official sources told The Indian Express.
A “favourable” decision is “already under consideration” within the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), the sources said.
The government is waiting for August 5, which marks a year since special status under Article 370 was revoked and J&K split into two Union Territories, and Independence Day, to “pass off peacefully” before taking a decision, they said.
On July 26, The Indian Express reported that the J&K administration has told the MHA that it does not have any objection to restoring 4G services. “We have been making (a) representation for this… I feel that 4G will not be a problem. I am not afraid (of) how people will use this. Pakistan will do its propaganda, whether it is 2G or 4G. It will always be there… But I don’t see an issue,” J&K Lieutenant Governor G C Murmu had told this newspaper.
On Tuesday, the Centre sought time from the Supreme Court to verify Murmu’s remarks during a hearing on a petition filed by an NGO asking the court to “look into the statement”. The court will hear the matter on August 7. The government had suspended high-speed Internet in the Valley last August 5.
“The L-G is not wrong. The decision to restore 4G in the Valley is under consideration. Maybe, the statement was a bit premature. Security agencies are not in favour of restoring 4G network until the anniversary of the abrogation of Article 370 and Independence Day pass off peacefully. Right now, emotions are high in the Valley and restoration of 4G services may have law-and-order implications. A decision may be taken after August 15,” a Home Ministry official said.
“Last year, too, it was proposed to be restored by the end of October since the security and law-and-order threats from high-speed mobile Internet go down with the onset of winter. It was felt then that with four-five months under the belt, things would settle down from April. However, a go-ahead was not given at that time,” another official said.
According to officials, the twin threats from restoring a high-speed network was that it would enhance communication between terror operatives and lead to law-and-order issues in the form of stone-pelting, which “tend to be organised over WhatsApp groups”.
“While terror incidents have continued to happen with or without the Internet, the spread of Covid has ensured that people are not gathering in large numbers in the streets,” the official said.
According to figures compiled by MHA, till June-end this year, there were only 40 incidents of stone-pelting in which a security personnel was injured or a government vehicle damaged in the Valley. Across 2019, the figure was 666.
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