Ban on social media will continue in Jammu and Kashmir for some time more as the government on Friday allowed the continuation of only the voice calls, SMS and 2G internet connectivity to white-listed sites on pre-paid and post-paid cellphones across the Union Territory till February 15.
However, the administration increased the number of white-listed sites to 481 from 329 listed on January 31. The decision has been taken “upon re-assessment of the restrictions on mobile data services with respect to its impact on the overall security situation and after due consideration of the reports of law enforcement agencies”. The agencies have, “among other things, brought out the usage of internet for carrying out terror activities including those at Nagrota (Ban Toll Plaza), Partap Park (Srinagar), Srinagar-Baramulla National Highway (Shalteng), as well as use of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) for this purpose despite measures taken by Telecom Service Providers”, read an order issued by Principal Secretary (Home) Shaleen Kabra.
“It is absolutely necessary to do so in the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the state and for maintaining public order,” the order read, adding that the “directions/restrictions contained in the Government order dated January 31 last shall continue to remain operative till February 15 unless modified earlier”.
On January 31, except for increasing the number of white-listed sites for purposes of internet connectivity to 329 from 301, the UT government had only extended its January 24 order whereby it had restored the mobile and broadband fixed-line internet connectivity to 301 white-listed sites in all the districts of Jammu and Kashmir.
The government had on January 18 restored pre-paid cellphone service (voice and SMS) across the UT, besides 2G mobile internet connectivity to 153 white-listed sites on post-paid cellphones in all the 10 districts of Jammu and two revenue districts of Kashmir — Kupwara, and Bandipora.
Internet services, landline, and mobile phones were snapped across J&K on the eve of the Centre’s August 5 announcement to scrap the special status of the erstwhile state under Article 370 and its bifurcation. While most of the services were restored in Jammu by the end of the month, landlines, postpaid mobile services and internet facilities to essential services like hospitals were restored in phases in Kashmir.
The Supreme Court, on January 10, asked the J&K administration to “review all orders suspending internet services forthwith”. Ruling that “freedom of speech and expression and the freedom to practice any profession or carry on any trade, business or occupation over the medium of Internet enjoys constitutional protection under Article 19 (1) (a) and Article 19 (1) (g)”, the Supreme Court had said that “an order suspending internet services indefinitely is impermissible”.
The government had said, “Restriction upon such fundamental rights should be in consonance with the mandate under Article 19 (2) and (6) of the Constitution, inclusive of the test of proportionality.”
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