Valley’s post-paid mobiles to come alive

Seventy days after a communication lockdown was imposed in the Valley following the annulment of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status, Kashmir will move closer to restoration of normal life with the state government announcing the resumption of postpaid mobile services in all 10 districts from Monday.

While voice calls and SMS will be enabled, mobile internet will remain barred for now. The move is set to benefit around 40 lakh post-paid mobile subscribers in J&K who are in the Valley. Around 20 lakh pre-paid connections which work only in the state and lack roaming facility remain non-functional. In normal course, pre-paid SIM cards bought outside J&K too do not function in J&K.

The lifting of the ban on mobile communication in the Valley comes days after the J&K government withdrew its advisory, issued in early August, asking tourists to leave the state as a precautionary step and is part of calibrated steps to ease restrictions after the special status was abrogated and a decision was taken to create two UTs of J&K and Ladakh. The ban was intended to prevent Pakistan-based terror outfits organising violent protests and inciting violence.

So far, the mobile ban in the Valley was intended to prevent Pakistan-based and aided elements and terror organisations to organise violent protests and incite violence through provocative, and in many cases, manipulated videos.

The continued ban on internet will mean use of WhatsApp, often a tool for mobilisation, will not be functional. Sources indicated the next step in efforts to end curbs imposed in J&K after Article 370 was turned into a dead letter, shall be phased release of detained political leaders in coming days. While some middle level leaders were freed earlier this week, a call is awaited on more prominent figures.

Asked about the timing for lifting the mobile ban in Kashmir Valley, a senior intelligence functionary said: “The main focus of militants and Pakistan was to display a total shutdown when the UN General Assembly session was held in September. After Pakistan’s efforts to internationalise the issue failed, people are now willing and waiting to open up shops/establishments and resume normal life. So it was a good time to take the initiative”.

J&K principal secretary Rohit Kansal told a news conference in Srinagar that the initiative will help tourists visit the state without being handicapped by lack of phone connectivity. “Students can be in touch with parents, businessmen can be in touch with customers, transporters can contact clients, and contractors can be in touch with staff,” he stated. Sources in central security said J&K police and other forces are gearing up to tackle any eventuality.

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