The Jammu and Kashmir administration on Friday ordered the continuance of 2G mobile data services in the Union territory till April 15, even as the demand for restoration of high-speed 4G internet grows in view of the coronavirus outbreak.
As per a previous order issued on March 26 by Principal Secretary, Home Department, Shaleen Kabra, internet speed on mobile phones in the region will be restricted to 2G only.
Postpaid sim card holders shall be provided with access to internet.
However, such access shall not be made available on prepaid sim cards unless verified as per the norms applicable for postpaid connections, the order said.
Fixed line internet connectivity with mac-binding shall be available, it added.
The order said the directions shall be effective immediately and remain in force up to April 15.
Several political parties, including the National Conference, the CPI(M), the BJP and the Congress, have batted strongly for restoration of 4G mobile internet services in Jammu and Kashmir to help people to deal with the unprecedented situation that has arisen in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
The restrictions on mobile internet has been taken in view of reports received from the intelligence and law enforcement agencies which, among other things, bring out the factum of the attempts made by the antinational elements (ANEs) to spread propaganda and ideologies through transmission of fake news and targeted messages aimed at disturbing the public order and cause disaffection and discontent as also coordinate acts of terrorism, the fresh order said.
It said many instances of misuse of data services for incitement, including circulation of fake news, have been noticed which necessitated even use of teargas to disperse people in such precarious times when owing to COVID- 1 9, orders under section 144 CrPC have been enforced to regulate assembly and movement and there is enhanced public awareness regarding social distancing measures.
There have also been recoveries of major cache of arms and ammunition on one hand and killings of civilians by the terrorists on the other, apart from attempts to encourage terrorism through uploading of provocative videos and material as also infiltration from across the border, it said.
Further, the recent changes in the domicile law in J&K too has the potential to be exploited by those inimical to public peace and tranquillity and cause large scale violence and disturb public order, which has till now been maintained due to various pre-emptive measures, including restriction on access to internet with relaxations in a calibrated and gradual manner, after due consideration of the ground situation, Mr Kabra said in the order.
"The internet speed restrictions have, while enabling access to essential services and sites, not posed any hindrance to COVID-19 control measures or to access online educational content, but checked the unfettered misuse of social media for incitement and propagating and coordinating terror activities," he added.