A month after the central government ordered an unprecedented communications blackout while it scrapped Jammu and Kashmir's decades-old special status and split it into two union territories, all telephone exchanges still out of order in Kashmir are set to be restored, authorities said on Wednesday.
While it was not immediately clear if it meant all landline connections under these 19 exchanges would be restored as well, few of these telephones serviced by government-run operator BSNL are used at homes. Internet and cellphone lines remain out of service across Kashmir.
"Most telephone exchanges to be functional tonight across Valley. Mobiles being restored gradually, already buzzing in Kupwara. Thanks for patience and regrets for inconvenience," Shahid Choudhary, a senior bureaucrat in Srinagar, tweeted. In Kupwara, only one private operator has started incoming calls for postpaid customers.
#Kashmir#JammuAndKashmir— DIPR-J&K (@diprjk) September 4, 2019
Restoration of Communication in Valley-
100% of landline exchanges to be operationalized; Remaining 19 exchanges being opened tonight.@dwivedimk_ias@kansalrohit69@JmuKmrPolice@KVijayKumarIPS@srinagaradmin@listenshahid
All telephone exchanges in Kashmir - some 100 of them - were closed when the government ordered a communications blockade and severe security measures like evacuating tourists and pilgrims last month. Top political leaders, including former Chief Ministers, were detained and curfew-like restrictions were imposed.
The restrictions, especially the clampdown on communication, has left local residents frustrated and disrupted essential services.
The moves were necessary to prevent a possible backlash and terror strikes over nixing special privileges granted to Jammu and Kashmir and will be withdrawn in phases, depending on the situation, the government had said.
Several nations, including the US, have expressed concern over the restrictions in Jammu and Kashmir.
Questioned by a magazine in Belgium, Foreign Minister S Jaishankar had defended the continuation of restrictions.
"It wasn't possible to stop communications between militants without impacting all of Kashmir. How do I cut off communication between the terrorists and their masters on the one hand, but keep the Internet open for other people? I would be delighted to know," he said in an interview with Politico magazine in Brussels.
In mid-August, while mobile internet was restored in all five districts of Jammu but was snapped again. While the administration blamed a mechanical glitch, local sources said it was disconnected to keep the peace during a rally by right wing groups.
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