India is restoring 4G internet in Jammu and Kashmir after 18 months

India is restoring 4G internet services in Jammu and Kashmir, a senior government official said Friday evening, 18 months after imposing a sweeping communications blackout in the Muslim-majority region in an attempt to curb the spread of potential backlash over New Delhi’s decision to revoke Kashmir’s semiautonomous status in August of 2019.

Rohit Kansal, principal secretary of the Jammu and Kashmir government, said 4G internet services were being restored in the entire region.

India partially lifted ban on internet in two districts — out of 20 — of the state last year but maintained speed restrictions (2G internet), after a ruling from the Supreme Court that found an indefinite shutdown of the internet in the state unwarranted and demonstrated “abuse of power” by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government.

The lifting of restrictions at the time had applied to 301 “whitelisted” services that included entertainment platforms such as Netflix and Amazon and some news outlets including The New York Times. Many Indian news outlets remained blocked, along with all social media. Many residents complained that the slow 2G speeds barely allowed them to check their emails and WhatsApp messages.

The internet ban in Jammu and Kashmir, home to more than 13 million people, has been by far the longest by any democracy.

In August, New Delhi told Supreme Court that it will start offering high-speed internet in one district of Jammu and one of Kashmir valley on a “trial basis.” Late last year, the government resumed broadband service in the region. Critics have said that ban on internet has cost citizens of Jammu and Kashmir hundreds of thousands of jobs and millions of dollars.

Raman Jit Singh Chima, a senior international counsel and Asia Pacific Policy director at Access Now, a nonprofit internet advocacy organization, said today’s move was welcoming, but “let’s be clear — the previous shutdown was excessive, mindless repeated. Glad that all Jammu and Kashmir residents will soon have internet restored, denied to them in violation of their rights under the Indian Constitution.”

Omar Abdullah, former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, celebrated the news, adding “For the first time since Aug 2019 all of J&K will have 4G mobile data. Better late than never.”

This is a developing story. More to follow…

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