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AFP
October 15, 2019

After 72-day blackout, mobile phones back in Kashmir

Top Story

AFP
October 15, 2019

HELD SRINAGAR: Mobile phone networks were restored in Indian-held Kashmir (IHK) on Monday after a 72-day blackout, authorities claimed, but the internet remains off-limits to the disputed region’s seven million-plus people.

India cut access to mobile networks in the restive Kashmir Valley in early August citing security concerns as it scrapped the occupied region’s semi-autonomous status and imposed a lockdown.

The easing on Monday covers around four million post-paid mobile phone contracts, but only for calls and text messages. The internet is still unavailable both on cellphone and fixed line networks.

Landlines were restored previously, although residents say connections are erratic. The stripping of occupied Kashmir’s special status on August 5 also saw New Delhisend in tens of thousands of extra troops to what even before was one of the world’s most heavily militarised zonesSeveral hundred Kashmiri politicians, activists, lawyers and others remain in custody, mostly without charge. Several thousand ordinary Kashmiris were also detained, including children as young as nine, with protesters and security forces clashing at regular rallies. Most have since been released.

UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said last month she was “deeply concerned” while Washington called for the “rapid” lifting of restrictions.Mohammad Akbar, a businessman, told AFP in the main city Srinagar that he was pleased that mobile phones were working again, but had harsh words for the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“Mobile phones are a commercial service that we pay for, not a favour,” he said. “They slash our basic rights and then ease things as favours and call it normalcy.”Having mobile phones “is something completely normal in most countries. But here in Kashmir it is a big deal”, said law student Mashouq. “And it can be taken away at any time.”

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