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Mobile internet suspended as protests hit Kashmir Valley

The ban order said the step was being taken because it has been felt that continued misuse of social networking sites was likely to be detrimental to the interest of peace in the state.

india Updated: May 27, 2017 17:34 IST
Abhishek Saha
Three men browse the internet on mobile phones at a shop in Srinagar. Authorities have once again suspended mobile internet services.
Three men browse the internet on mobile phones at a shop in Srinagar. Authorities have once again suspended mobile internet services.(AFP)

Mobile internet services were suspended as protesters took to the streets of the Kashmir Valley soon after news broke that Hizbul militant Sabzar Bhat was killed in an encounter on Saturday morning.

The suspension of mobile internet services came hours after the month-long ban on 22 social media and messaging platforms in Kashmir was revoked.

Bhat was gunned down in south Kashmir’s Tral where forces raided a militant hideout on Friday evening. The encounter continued into Saturday, with Bhat and another militant Faizan confirmed dead.

The ban, ordered on April 26, clamped down on popular sites including Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, Instagram, QQ, WeChat, Ozone, Tumblr, Google+, Baidu, Skype, Viber, Line, Snapchat, Pinterest, Telegram, Reddit, Snapfish, YouTube, Vine, Buzznet, Xanga, and Flickr.

Only by late Friday night, people said they could access social media sites without any hassle on most networks, but were left dejected by Saturday noon as mobile internet services were snapped.

The government’s ban order said the step was being taken because “... it has been felt that continued misuse of social networking sites and instant messaging services is likely to be detrimental to the interest of peace and tranquillity of the state”.

Even as the ban was implemented, Kashmiris turned to freely available technology like Virtual Private Network (VPN) and encrypted messenger services such as Signal.

During the ban, what came as a surprise for many was that the who’s who of Kashmir continued to post on Facebook and Twitter. Political leaders of the ruling PDP, leaders of opposition parties, government officials and even top police officials were found circumventing the ban.

The news of Bhat’s death triggered protests in many parts of the Valley. Pellet injuries were also reported from some parts of south Kashmir.