The Jammu and Kashmir administration on Thursday extended the ban on high-speed 4G internet services till November 26 across the Union Territory, except in Ganderbal and Udhampur districts, Live Law reported. Residents will have access to only 2G mobile internet services in other places.
The government said the ban was necessary to prevent “terrorist and separatist elements” from disrupting the elections to the District Development Council constituencies, Panchayati Raj Institutions and Urban Local Bodies.
An order issued by Principal Secretary Home Department Shaleen Kabra said the elections across Jammu and Kashmir has led to “high level of interest” among people. “It is apprehended that the terrorists and separatist elements shall make every possible attempt to disrupt the democratic process,” it added.
The administration also said that militant activities depend upon high-speed internet connectivity. “During the last fortnight, there have also been targeted killing of the civilians, political activists, that manifest the nefarious designs of the terrorists to dissuade general public from participating in the election process,” it read. “Such unlawful acts heavily rely upon high speed mobile internet connectivity and are required to be thwarted by taking appropriate pre-emptive measures to create an environment of safety and security for the contesting candidates and the general public.”
The order claimed that the decision to extend the 4G mobile internet ban will not impede coronavirus control measures and access to education.
Internet services were cut off in Jammu and Kashmir last year on August 5, hours before the Centre revoked Article 370 of the Constitution and split the state into two Union Territories. The low-speed or 2G internet service on mobile phones was restored on January 25, although outages continue to be imposed intermittently amid a complete ban on 4G network.
The government has repeatedly argued that such security measures were necessary to better integrate the region with India, foster greater economic development and stop threats from “anti-national elements” and Pakistan.
On August 16, the government restarted high-speed mobile data service in Ganderbal and Udhampur districts on a “trial basis”, as part of “calibrated easing of restrictions”. But on September 9, the Centre refused to extend high speed mobile internet outside the two districts, citing inputs about “terror modules” trying to lure youth into terrorist organisations.