India to restore text messaging services in Kashmir after 5 months

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Mobile phone text messaging services were to be restored across Indian-controlled Jammu and Kashmir Wednesday, five months after they were suspended during a clampdown on communications in the region.

“SMS services for all mobile phones and broadband internet services in all government hospitals would be restored post-midnight,” Jammu and Kashmir government spokesman Rohit Kansal said.

The suspension of mobile internet and messaging services were part of a clampdown in Jammu and Kashmir on the eve of the scrapping of its special status on Aug. 5.

Hundreds of political leaders arrested during the clampdown remain in detention along with the suspension of mobile internet and broadband internet connections other than hospitals.

These connections would be restored as and when the local administration felt it fit, Kansal said at a televised press briefing in Jammu.

Authorities fear that insurgents and separatists demanding independence from Indian rule will use the internet to provoke protests in the region that could morph into large-scale street demonstrations.

Tensions in Kashmir, which is divided between Pakistan and India but claimed by both in its entirety, have escalated since New Delhi’s surprise decision in early August to downgrade the region’s semi-autonomy.

India followed the move by sending in tens of thousands of extra troops, detaining thousands of people and blocking cellphone and internet services. The government had earlier said that the restrictions on communication services were “in the interest of maintenance of public order.” Some communications services, like post-paid and landline phones, were restored in October in a phased manner.

Kashmir’s troubles began in 1947, with the first days of Indian and Pakistani independence, as both claimed the region. They have since fought two of three wars over their rival claims, with each administering a part of the territory, which is divided by a heavily militarized line of control.

On the Indian side, most public protests were peaceful until 1989, when armed rebels rose demanding the region’s independence or a merger with Pakistan. Nearly 70,000 people were killed in that uprising and the ensuing military crackdown.

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