India to end five-month internet blackout in Kashmir

(Photo: ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP via Getty Images).
(Photo: ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP via Getty Images).

INTERNET services will be partly restored in Kashmir from Saturday (25), ending a five-and-a half-month government-imposed blackout in the troubled region, but social media will stay offline, local authorities said.

Prime minister Narendra Modi’s government imposed a communications blackout in early August when it stripped the partial autonomy of Kashmir.

Internet access will be restored later Saturday but only to 301 government-approved websites that include international news publications and platforms such as Netflix and Amazon.

“Access shall be limited only to the whitelisted sites and not to any social media applications,” the Jammu and Kashmir home department said in a notification.

Mobile phone data access will also be restored, but limited to slower second-generation (2G) connections, the department added.

Since August freedom of movement in heavily-militarized Kashmir has been gradually restored as has cellphone coverage, but apart from at a handful of locations there has been no regular internet access.

This made life even harder for the region’s seven million inhabitants and hit the local economy hard.

Modi’s government said that the blackout was for security reasons, aimed at restricting the ability of armed militants who it says are backed by Pakistan to communicate.

The Supreme Court however criticised the government earlier this month for the move, calling it an “arbitrary exercise of power”.

The court also stated that having access to the internet “is integral to an individual’s right to freedom of speech and expression”.