Srinagar: People in the newly created Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir were on Wednesday evening able to access social media sites, including Facebook and WhatsApp, on 2G mobile data service as the government lifted the ban on these sites after over seven months.
Official sources said that people would now be allowed unrestricted internet access with 2G speed. Earlier, the government had provided a list of websites that could be accessed in J&K.
“The new order shall be applicable only till March 17 on an experimental basis,” sources said, adding that this is a step towards bringing normalcy in the Valley.
Weekly meetings are being held to review gag on high speed internet facilities in J&K on the direction of Supreme Court. The Apex court had directed the government to review the internet facilities.
The Jammu and Kashmir police last month lodged an FIR against locals for using social media platforms on Virtual Private Networks (VPNs).
The development came in the backdrop of people accessing social media sites, despite a ban by the administration, through VPN apps in J&K, where high speed internet and broadband service remained suspended since August 5.
Mobile internet and broadband service of all Cellular companies was suspended in the Kashmir valley on August 5, 2019, when centre scrapped Article 370 and 35 A besides divided the state into two Union Territories (UTs).
However, 2G mobile internet service was resumed on January 25 while high speed internet and broadband remained suspended. The social media sites also remained banned and government had directed people to assess only whitelisted sites.
J&K police chief Dilbag Singh last month asserted that the Union Territory administration and security forces are well aware about people using VPN apps to access social media sites despite a ban by Home department, saying police is currently concerting on miscreants who are misusing Facebook and WhatsApp to spread rumours in the valley.
The DGP also made an appeal to general public not to use social media via VPN apps. “Our main priority is the deal with people who are misusing social media and spreading rumours. Our second priority is to deal with the rest of the people who are accessing social media through VPN despite a ban. Currently we are concentrating only on the first priority,” Mr Singh said.
The communication network was suspended across Kashmir valley, including Srinagar, on August 5 as a precautionary measure to prevent rumours after the special status of the state was scrapped. Suspension of the communication — landline, mobile and internet — network evoked sharp reaction, particularly from the families whose relatives were outside the valley.
It was in the last week of August that landlines were restored to subscribers connected with Barzulla and Sonawar telephone exchanges. Landlines phones of subscribers, including all media organizations, from main BSNL telephone exchange were restored only on September 5.
Meanwhile, the post-paid mobile phone service was restored on October 14 while the SMS service for BSNL started from December 31 midnight in the valley, where the pre-paid mobile service was on January 19 restored after remaining suspended for 168 days.
Due to suspension of internet service, journalists working for different media organizations, including News Agencies, were badly hit. However, later administration set up a media facilitation centre at Sonawar in the city. The centre was later shifted to Directorate Information Office in Srinagar, where journalists are filing their stories to their respective media organizations.