Five months after the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir was put under an unprecedented communication blackout, the administration announced on Saturday that SMS and voice calls will be restored for all prepaid mobile users.
Apart from this, internet services will be restored on postpaid connections in Kashmir's Bandipore and Kupwara, along with 10 other districts of Jammu, albeit with some restrictions.
Scrapping Article 370, Centre changed Kashmir's long-standing status
In August 2019, the Centre revoked Article 370, which granted special status to J&K and bifurcated the northernmost state into two Union Territories.
However, to deal with any violent fallout of the historic step, heavy forces were deployed to the area, communication modes were snapped, and politicians were detained.
This got the BJP government criticism from within India and also from human rights bodies.
Eventually, government eased restrictions keeping situation on-ground in mind
About the restrictions, which increased the ordeal of locals, the government said it will be eased after assessing the on-ground situation.
This week, broadband internet services returned to J&K, but social media remained off-limits. In a three-page order, the administration directed service providers to give broadband facilities (with Mac binding) to hospitals, banks, and government offices.
And today, other services also made a return.
Top government official made big announcement
Jammu Kashmir Principal Secretary, Rohit Kansal: After a careful review, the competent authority has ordered today that voice SMS facilities shall be restored on all local prepaid sim cards across JK. pic.twitter.com/hJ7CaRtg3f
Mobile internet will remain suspended in sensitive areas: Kansal
"2G mobile data on postpaid mobile for accessing whitelisted websites shall be allowed in all 10 districts of Jammu and Kupwara, Bandipora in Kashmir division. Mobile internet shall remain suspended in Budgam, Ganderbal, Baramulla, Srinagar, Kulgam, Anantnag, Shopian, Pulwama," Rohit Kansal, J&K Principal Secretary said.
Curbs were reviewed after SC came down heavily on administration
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court declared that the state can't suspend internet services for a prolonged period of time as it is a violation of freedom of speech. The government was given one week to review the curbs.
SC also came down heavily on the frequent imposition of CrPC Section 144, which bars four or more people to gather at one spot.
Separately, government has planned a massive outreach program
Facing flak over the Kashmir issue, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government planned an outreach program, wherein Union Ministers will meet locals and talk to them about Centre's schemes.
Over the next seven days, ministers including Smriti Irani, Piyush Goyal, Jitender Singh, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Kiren Rijiju, Hardeep Puri, G Kishen Reddy, Purshottam Singh Rupala, General VK Singh, Gajender Singh Shekhawat and Anurag Thakur, will visit J&K.