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After record-long blackout, India restores full internet access in Kashmir — for now

India-Pakistan tensions rise over Kashmir
India-Pakistan tensions rise over Kashmir 05:49

New Delhi — The Indian government on Wednesday restored access to social media sites in Kashmir seven months after a harsh communications blackout was enforced.  The government had blocked all communication channels in Kashmir — from phone lines to the internet — on August 5, last year when it revoked the Himalayan region's autonomy and stripped it of statehood

A government order on Wednesday said the internet services in  Kashmir will be restored in full and access to social media websites will be permitted, but at a curtailed speed of 2G. For now, the restrictions have been lifted only until March 17.

The government had restored limited access to internet in mid January after widespread criticism and pressure from the country's Supreme Court. Only broadband links to government offices and institutions providing essential services, such as hospitals, banks, hotels, and travel companies, were allowed. Mobile data, personal broadband and access to social media sites remained blocked. 

Since mid January, many people in Kashmir were accessing social media sites using Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), platforms that enable users to circumvent censorship by masking their locations.

Pakistan India Kashmir
Pakistanis rally to express solidarity with Indian Kashmiris struggling for their independence, in Karachi, Pakistan, Wednesday, March 4, 2020. Fareed Khan / AP

Last week, the Indian news outlet Scroll reported that police in Kashmir had registered several cases for "misuse" of social media through VPNs and arrested at least five people. 

Jammu and Kashmir's 12 million population faced a  communications blackout for months after the Indian government stripped the region of special status and autonomy last year, a move that was widely criticized.  Thousands of people remained cut off from their families for months.  

Phone services remained shut for two months, and the internet services remained completely blocked for more than 165 days, making it the longest-ever internet shutdown in a democracy. 

Kashmir borders both India and Pakistan, and both countries control a portion of it but claim it in full. It remains the key point of contention between the two nuclear powers, which have fought three major wars over the region.  

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