The Jammu and Kashmir administration on Saturday whitelisted 1,485 websites but extended the ban on high speed 3G and 4G internet services till February 24. In an order, the authorities said that “internet speed shall be restricted to 2G only”.
The Centre cut off internet services in Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh on August 5 just before imposing a security lockdown. Mobile 2G internet services were restored in a limited way for both prepaid and postpaid connections after over five months on January 25. However, this access was provided to only 301 “whitelisted” websites.
The administration noted it had received information that social media sites were being used through virtual private network or VPN to carry out “terror activities”, and to upload “provocative material” aimed at disturbing peace. Authorities cited these activities to justify the temporary suspension of mobile data services. Virtual Private Networks, or VPN, allow users to mask their location and browse the internet more securely.
The order added that mobile data services and internet access will be allowed with certain restrictions. “ISPs [internet service providers] shall ensure access only to the whitelisted sites...and not to any social media applications allowing peer to peer communication and Virtual Private Network applications,” the order said. “Data services shall be available on the post-paid mobiles and on pre-paid sim cards of such holders whose credentials have been verified as per the norms applicable...” The notice also urged people not to misuse the services for uploading “provocative material inimical to the interest of the State”.
Scroll.in had reported that VPN applications had piqued the interest of people in Kashmir. However, in South Kashmir that had led to tension between civilians and the Army. Residents of several Kulgam villages claimed that security personnel checked phones of young people for VPN apps. They were allegedly thrashed if the applications were found on the phones.
Last week, the Kashmir Press Club raised concerns about the inability of journalists in the region to operate freely due to alleged obstruction by authorities. The organisation took note of the alleged physical attacks, threats and summons towards journalists during a meeting.