Srinagar: Internet 3G and 4G services will be restored fully in Kashmir likely within the next three days, senior police officials told Reader on Monday.
Dismissing rumours of a six-month mobile internet ban, a senior police official said, “We were planning to restore it on Monday after assessing the situation. We wanted to make sure that the educational institutions function normally after the few days of violent protest last week.”
The official said that due to the violent protests which broke out in SP College on Monday, the authorities delayed the decision to restore high-speed internet on mobiles and broadband.
Media reports had suggested that the authorities may block social media like WhatsApp and Facebook for six months in Kashmir. “We do not plan to block any social networking app or site in Kashmir,” the official said.
When asked if social media like Facebook or WhatsApp will be blocked, Director General of Police SP Vaid said, “It was a rumour, nothing else.”
Mobile internet was blocked in Kashmir on April 9, the day the by-election for Srinagar parliamentary constituency was held. It was restored two days later. Despite the blockade, protests on election day led to violence that caused the deaths of eight civilians after government forces opened fire on protesters at various places, mainly in Budgam.
When the internet was restored, a number of videos emerged that showed the government forces excesses on election day. One video that went viral was of a man from Budgam who was strapped to an army jeep as a human shield and the jeep driven around 14 villages in Budgam. In another video, ITBP (Indo-Tibetan Border Police) men were seen shooting a youth dead by firing from point-blank range. Other videos showed the assault by government troops on students of Government Degree College in Pulwama on April 16.
3G and 4G internet services were again blocked after students took to streets to protest against the assault on Pulwama college students.
Asked to explain the logic behind restoring the internet and social media, police officials said that the main purpose of the blockade was to stop the spiral of “protests and violence”.
“Pakistani elements get to work when there is a situation which can be exploited. We feared that protests might increase and go out of control. The Pakistani element might exploit the situation. So we decided to snap the internet,” police officials said.
“But the situation returned to normal except the protests in Srinagar. Once normalcy is fully established, there will be no issue which can be exploited. We took some precautionary measures,” officials added. “In next three days, we will restore the internet fully.”
For the past one month, the government has been blaming social media for “vitiating peace in the valley.”
According to media reports, police had claimed that militant groups had control over WhatsApp groups, each having more than 250 members. They further claimed that they had blocked over 10,000 Facebook accounts and 500 WhatsApp groups, which were traced to militant groups operating with the help of Pakistan.