- Communication blocked in J&K after Centre's move to end special status
- Users found they had been billed for the 72 days of blockade
- Internet facility in Kashmir is yet to be restored
Postpaid cell phones started buzzing in Kashmir from noon on Monday as promised by the administration. But outgoing calls were another matter. The users found that they have been billed for the 72 days of blockade and in many cases, the outgoing facility has been blocked as the bills had not been paid. Making the payment was a further hurdle, as the internet facility is yet to be restored.
The communication blackout started on August 5 after the centre scrapped the special status granted to the state under the constitution's Article 370 and divided it into two union territories. It was part of the precautionary measures - including the detention of politicians, extra security and evacuation of tourists -- adopted to prevent a backlash against the move.
Srinagar resident Ghulam Nabi Najjar, whose son is working in Muscat, was hugely relieved when cellphone service was restored on Monday. For more than two months, the 65-year-old had struggled to make a phone call to his son, who works in Muscat.
Before the landlines were restored, the government had kept a limited number of landlines working where the locals had to queue up to make urgent phone calls.
But his wife Hajira has to wait for some time before her personal pre-paid phone is restored.
There are about 70 lakh mobile connections in the valley. Forty lakh postpaid, which are now functional, and 30 lakh prepaid phones that are yet to be restored. There, however, is no word on when the internet will be back.
The government has said that the removal of the restrictions will happen in a phased manner, depending on the ground situation.
Last month, landline connections in Jammu and Kashmir were restored. But few landlines are serviced by government-run operator BSNL. The situation had left the locals upset and disrupted essential services and businesses.
Governor Satya Pal Malik, however, defended the communication blockade, saying the safety of the people was more important than cellphone services, which are used by terrorists for "mobilisation and indoctrination".
"People lived without telephones earlier also," the Governor said, adding, "For us, the life of a Kashmiri is important and not telephone".