SRINAGAR, Jammu and Kashmir
The government in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir extended on Wednesday its ban on high-speed internet in 18 of 20 districts in the region until Nov. 12.
In an order issued Wednesday evening, the government said the restrictions on high-speed internet were "felt absolutely necessary in the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India."
The order said security agencies "apprehended that anti-national elements might misuse" high-speed connections "for carrying out activities inimical to the public order besides persuading the youths to join militancy."
High-speed internet had been cut off since last August, when India revoked the semi-autonomous status of Jammu and Kashmir, divided it into two federally ruled territories and imposed a complete lockdown and communications blackout.
When the Supreme Court stepped in, the Indian government only restored mobile internet services in January -- first in Hindu-dominated Jammu and then in Muslim-majority regions of Kashmir.
However, only government-authorized "whitelisted" websites were accessible. Restrictions on social media remained in force until March 4.
High-speed internet was restored on Aug. 17 in two of the disputed region's 20 districts -- the Ganderbal district in the Muslim-majority Kashmir Valley and Udhampur district in the Hindu-majority Jammu -- on a "trial basis" after a committee formed on the order of the top court recommended "calibrated easing of internet restrictions in comparatively less sensitive geographical areas."
Udhampur, where the Indian army's Northern Command Headquarters is located, is "militancy free." The district has a population of 550,000 out of Jammu and Kashmir's total population of 12.5 million. Compared to the rest of the Kashmir Valley, Ganderbal, with a population of 300,000, has witnessed fewer militancy-related incidents.
Numerous human rights groups including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have repeatedly urged India to restore full internet access in the disputed region, with the calls gaining steam amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Kashmir, a Muslim-majority Himalayan region, is held by India and Pakistan in parts and claimed by both in full. A small sliver of Kashmir is also held by China.
Since they were partitioned in 1947, the two countries have fought three wars – in 1948, 1965 and 1971 – two of them over Kashmir.
Some Kashmiri groups in Jammu and Kashmir have been fighting against Indian rule for independence or for unification with neighboring Pakistan.
According to several human rights organizations, thousands of people have been killed in the conflict in the region since 1989./aa