Less than 300 websites accessible on Kashmir’s restored internet; Firstpost, Express, Reuters, AP remain blocked

  • The Jammu and Kashmir administration issued a notification stating that 2G mobile internet would be restored in all 20 districts restricted to 300 'white-listed' websites

  • Several URLs on the list are repeating and news websites such as Firstpost, The Associated Press, Indian Express, Reuters, AP and AFP remain blocked

  • Indian officials have refused to divulge the reason why access to these websites is still blocked.

While the Jammu and Kashmir administration issued a notification stating that 2G mobile internet would be restored in all 20 districts restricted to 300 "white-listed" websites, several URLs on the list are repeating and news websites such as Firstpost, The Associated Press, Indian Express, Reuters, AP and AFP remain blocked.

Financial Express, Outlook, PressTV, The Print, and Moneycontrol appear twice on the "white-list." The search engine Google is also listed twice. Upwork.com and office.com have also been duplicated on the list.

Indian officials have refused to divulge the reason why access to these websites is still blocked. Websites of political parties are also not accessible.

Firstpost carried extensive reportage from Kashmir following the abrogation of Article 370 and the restrictions that were placed on the region. This included a 25-part podcast series called Voices from the Lockdown, which featured conversations with various sections of Kashmiri society.

The order came from the Principal Secretary, Home Department, Shaleen Kabra, six months after the communications blockade after the Centre abrogated Article 370 and bifurcated the erstwhile state into two Union Territories. Earlier, only 153 "white-listed" sites were accessible on 2G internet.

The white-listed sites have been divided into 12 sections: Four email services, including Yahoo and Outlook, 18 entertainment sites including Hotstar and Netflix, 46 education sites including Kashmir University, Central University. Sites such as Flipkart, Shop use, Jabong, Amazon, Healthcart have been categorised under the utility section. The Times of India, Hindustan Times, News18, Aljazeera, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and New York Times are among the news websites accessible.

The restoration of the internet has received a muted response from students in the Valley. Taha Shabir, a student at Kashmir University, said the order doesn’t provide any major support to students like him. “What can we do with 2G speed? When the world is heading towards 5G, why do we still have to rely on 2G speed internet?” Shabir wondered.

"They have choked our space and we feel frustrated," said Sehrish Khan, a media student from Women’s College Kashmir. "It would have been better if the government hadn’t restored internet in Kashmir. They are playing with our lives.”

Kashmir's economy has lost more than Rs 15,000 crore since 5 August, a commerce body has claimed. Two days ago, Aegis, a multinational, wound up their business in Kashmir due to the internet blockade.

The Supreme Court earlier directed the government to review the internet ban in Jammu and Kashmir while declaring the six-month ban, “unlawful and unconstitutional.”

Last week, 2G internet services on postpaid mobiles were allowed in all 10 districts of Jammu division and in the revenue districts of Kupwara and Bandipora in the Valley.

In this order, Principal Secretary mentioned that mobile data services shall be accessed to “only white-listed sites and not to any social media applications.”

The order has cited reasons to blacklist social media and other sites for being “apprehensive of misuse of internet for propagation of terror activities and incitement of general public by circulation of inflammatory material.”

Internet with restrictions

2G internet restorations have been allowed with following directions from the home department:
1. As per the order the internet service protocol shall be responsible for ensuring that the access is allowed to white-list sites only.
2. The telecom service providers shall continue with the process of verification of credentials of prepaid service card holders as per the directions with immediate effect.
3. All those who are provided access to internet shall be responsible to prevent any misuse, for which they shall take the necessary precautions, including change of accessibility credentials, maintaining records along with precautions.

The directions, effective from 25 January will remain in force till 31 January, 2020, unless modified.

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Updated Date: Jan 25, 2020 17:31:06 IST