Authorities in occupied Kashmir have decided against fully restoring internet services, stating that the move was necessary to rein in “fake news” and to maintain the “sovereignty and integrity” of India, Indian media outlet The Wire reported on Wednesday.
On Jan 10, India’s Supreme Court, while hearing petitions challenging the restrictions on movement and communication imposed in the valley since August 5, 2019, said freedom of the internet is a fundamental right and ordered the administration to review all restrictive orders within a week.
The top Indian court had observed that internet suspension without “any particular duration and indefinitely” is a violation of telecom rules.
However, defying court orders, a notification issued by Indian authorities late on Tuesday said the ban was necessary for curbing “anti-national elements who are attempting to aid and incite people by transmission of fake news and targeted messages […] propagate terrorism, indulge in rumor-mongering, support fallacious proxy wars, spread propaganda/ideologies, and cause disaffection and discontent”.
The notification, a copy of which is available in The Wire’s report, says: “The misuse of data services by anti-national elements has the potential to cause large scale violence and disturb public order which has till now been maintained due to various preemptive measures, including restrictions on access to internet […].”
The notification further says the ban was “absolutely necessary […] in the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India”.
According to the report, the government will restore 2G services on postpaid mobile phones in Jammu, Samba, Kathua, Udhampur and Reasi areas of occupied Kashmir from Thursday (tomorrow). Meanwhile, the remaining districts – Poonch, Rajouri, Ramban, Kishtwar and Doda – will remain without mobile internet.
The ban on broadband internet in occupied Kashmir will, however, continue, according to the report. Authorities added that they will open 400 more internet kiosks to facilitate citizens, The Wire reported.
Under the new directives, internet service providers will provide broadband internet facilities to all institutions dealing with essential services and government offices as well as hotel and travel establishments to “facilitate tourism”.
However, prior to providing such services, internet service providers will “white-list” sites that would enable access to government websites and those dealing with essential services.
Moreover, there will be a “complete restriction on social media applications allowing peer to peer communication and virtual private network applications for the time being”.