The state government fully restored internet services in Jammu and Kashmir on Monday, lifting a three-day ban it imposed amid fears of sectarian trouble during the festival of Eid.
Last week’s order that came at a time when Prime Minister Narendra Modi was pushing his Digital India campaign in the US received widespread criticism.
Former chief minister Omar Abdullah welcomed the resumption of services with a sarcastic “Internet Mubarak” remark on Twitter.
While landline broadband services in the state resumed at 8 pm on Sunday, mobile data services were restored at 10 am on Monday.
“Oh the irony of listening to Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi lecturing about connected digital India while in J&K spent 3 days totally disconnected due to his party & allies,” Abdullah wrote on the social media site.
The state’s PDP-BJP government had said the step was taken owing to “apprehension of misuse of data services by anti-national elements”.
“The government was apprehensive that people might post cow slaughter pictures on social networking sites to defy the J&K high court’s recent order reiterating the ban on sale and slaughter of bovines in the state,” said an official.
Kashmiri separatists too hit out at the government, calling the ban an “act of frustration”.
Apart from blocking internet services, authorities detained or put under house arrest many of these leaders and their cadre.
“The separatists were barred from offering prayers, internet was banned. It shows that J&K has been turned into a big jail; it’s a police state,” moderate Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq told Hindustan Times. “I agree internet should not be used to create hostilities but that does not justify a blanket ban. You can’t stop people from expressing their views. People are losing faith in peaceful ways of redressal and taking up militancy.”
The ban severely hit businesses like travel companies, hotels and e-commerce firms. The gag was condemned by traders’ associations.
Showkat Chowdhary, chairman of the Kashmir Economic Alliance, termed the move “atrocious” and said it bruised the state’s image.
“I was supposed to pay my wholesaler and with banks closed online money transfer was always a good option. But, I could not do it and it was quite embarrassing for me as I couldn’t keep my word,” said Majid Mir, a retail cloth merchant.
Nasir Ahmad, a doctor who was in the valley for Eid, said he was forced to pay extra for an air ticket.
“I came to Kashmir from Delhi on the eve of Eid. My return ticket wasn’t booked and I kept waiting for the ban to be lifted as I had to come back on Monday because I couldn’t take more off days with the spread of dengue in the Capital,” he said. “Today I had to do whatever I could and a ticket which would cost Rs 4,000 to Rs 5,000 came for Rs 10,000.”
The state had never seen a blanket ban on internet services before.
In the past, successive governments imposed a ban on mobile internet for security reasons mostly during high-profile visits to the state or on occasions like Independence Day and Republic Day.
During a widespread street agitation in 2001, mobile internet was restricted but that did not affect landline broadband services.