Credits: WIkimedia Commons

Almost two years after they had been suspended by the government, high speed 4G internet services are being restored across the entirety of Jammu and Kashmir, a senior government official announced on Friday. An official notification stated that prepaid SIM cardholders would be provided access to the internet connectivity only after verification as per norms applicable for post-paid connections.

The special status of Jammu and Kashmir (Article 370 of the Constitution) had been revoked around the same time as the suspension of 4G internet services in the state. The state had been split into two Union Territories – J&K and Ladakh.

Mobile internet services had been suspended in the Union Territory from August 2019 to put a cork on the spread of misinformation and to stop terrorists from abusing the networks and furthering their own agendas, according to the Indian government. The suspension was sanctioned on the grounds of anticipated disturbance in the law and order situation, and intelligence inputs about possible attacks by terrorists infiltrating from across the border.

However, the central government had told the Supreme Court in August 2020 that the idea of allowing access to 4G internet services in Jammu and Kashmir on a trial basis was being considered by a special committee looking into the issue of internet restoration in the state.

Today, a high-level committee headed by Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla took the decision to services in Jammu and Kashmir. This decision was made only after reports from security agencies came in revealing that the restoration of 4G internet services in J&K was unlikely to cause major security problems in the Union Territory.

“Even though there have been reports of locals joining militancy, both terror incidents and casualty of security personnel are consistently dwindling. It is a good time to restore the Internet and give the people a sense of normalcy,” the official said.

“A meeting was held this morning by Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha, where the go-ahead was given for restoration of 4G services based on the recommendation of the local administration and security agencies,” a government official said

Former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah welcomed the move, tweeting:

This ban of the internet has been recorded as the longest by any democratic country to date.

In January 2020, broadband internet and slow 2G mobile data were restored in phases in Ganderbal and Udhampur. This came after the Supreme Court had slammed the government and called this suspension of the internet an assault on free speech and democratic rights. These restrictions have allegedly cost hundreds of thousands of jobs and crores in losses to the economy.