The Jammu and Kashmir administration on Monday extended the ban on high speed 3G and 4G internet services till March 4. Last week, the administration had said the ban will continue till February 24, and whitelisted 1,485 websites for access in the region.

In a notification, the Union Territory’s home department said that virtual private networks or VPNs were being misused by anti-national elements “from across the border” to skirt around the internet restrictions in the region. It added that the VPNs were being exploited by handlers to “coordinate with their operatives within the UT of J&K and plan terror acts and scale up anti-national activities”.

The central government 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 has been gradually increasing the number of whitelisted websites for access in the region.

“After considering the available alternatives and subject to further review, I, Principal Secretary to the Government, Home Department, being satisfied that it is absolutely necessary to do, in the interest of sovereignty and integrity of India, the Security of the State and for maintaining public order...” the notice issued by Principal Secretary Shaleen Kabra read.

The order also noted that access to 1,674 websites were provided “with updation being a continuous process”. “The IGP [Inspector General of Police] Kashmir/Jammu shall ensure immediate compliance of these directions by all the service providers,” the notification added.

Kabra claimed that mobile internet in certain areas of the Kashmir Valley had to be snapped for a limited period of time “due to acts of terrorism over the last week and the apprehension regarding disruption to the public order”. 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.

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