17 months on, 4G internet services restored in Jammu and Kashmir
The Jammu and Kashmir administration on Friday issued an order allowing the restoration of high-speed mobile internet services in the region, a move that came more than 17 months after 4G facilities were snapped ahead of the Centre’s controversial decision to withdraw the erstwhile state’s special status.
The order by Shaleen Kabra, principal secretary (home), directed inspectors general of police in Jammu and Kashmir divisions to ensure compliance and “closely monitor the impact of lifting of restrictions”. Though the two-page order did not specify any timeline, officials who did not want to be named said services could be restored as early as midnight Friday.
The order added that high-speed internet facility on prepaid SIM card holders would be provided “only after verification as per the norms applicable for post-paid connections”.
The news broke earlier in the evening, cheering residents of the Union Territory (UT). “4G mobile internet services being restored in entire J&K,” government spokesman Rohit Kansal tweeted.
Moments later, National Conference (NC) vice-president and former J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah tweeted: “4G Mubarak! For the first time since Aug 2019 all of J&K will have 4G mobile data. Better late than never.”
The order said an “objective assessment of the prevailing circumstances” was done by a special committee constituted on the directions of the Supreme Court order of May 11, 2020.
On the Raj Bhavan’s Twitter account, lieutenant governor Manoj Sinha thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi and home minister Amit Shah for “acceding to our request and restoring 4G services...” “The move will fulfil the aspirations of the people, especially the youth,” the tweet said.
Authorities suspended 4G mobile internet services on August 4, 2019, a day before the central government nullified Article 370, which accorded special privileges to J&K, and bifurcated it into two UTs — J&K with a legislative assembly and Ladakh without one. The government also suspended landline and internet services, fearing widespread protests in the restive region.
The UT has moved several steps towards normalcy since then, with the gradual restoration of communication lines.
Landlines were restored between mid-August and September 2019. Then postpaid mobile services buzzed back to life on October 14, 2019. Short messaging service (SMS) on all mobile phones and broadband internet services in government-run hospitals were restored on January 1, 2020.
2G mobile internet services were restored on January 25, 2020. In August 2020, high-speed internet was restored in two districts of J&K — Ganderbal and Udhampur districts — based on the parameters laid down by the special committee, which recommended that the areas, where high-speed services are allowed, should have low intensity of terrorist activities.
That move came days after the central government told the Supreme Court that restrictions on high-speed mobile internet services will be relaxed in one district each of Jammu and Kashmir divisions of the UT after August 15 on a trial basis.
The Supreme Court was hearing a petition filed by Foundation for Media Professionals, a non-government organisation, last June, seeking the initiation of contempt proceedings against the Centre and J&K administration for the failure to comply with the top court’s May 11 directions to review restrictions on mobile internet speed in the Union territory.
The demand for restoration of high-speed mobile internet had been growing in J&K for the past few months with political parties joining the chorus.
While Bharatiya Janata Party leaders such as Altaf Thakur joined the bandwagon, Apni Party leader Altaf Bukhari and National Conference president Farooq Abdullah, too, were vocal for the restoration of 4G services.
After Friday’s order, Srinagar mayor Junaid Azim Mattu tweeted: “The restoration of 4G Mobile Internet in Jammu & Kashmir is a welcome move and will ease out issues faced by students, the tourism industry and people at large.”
In a statement, Apni Party president Bukhari thanked PM Modi for restoring 4G services, terming it a positive development for students and the youth.
Basit Ahmad Dar, who is in Class 12, said students faced several hardships due to the suspension of high-speed internet. “We missed many online classes due to low internet speed. Once the internet is restored, life will become easy.”