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Hours after mobiles restored, SMS services blocked in Kashmir

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Wahid Bhat | Srinagar

Hours after post-paid mobile phone connections were restored in Kashmir Valley on Monday after 72 days, SMS services were stopped as a “precautionary measure.

SMS services were withdrawn as “precautionary measure” hours after the government restored post-paid mobile connections in Kashmir valley after 72 days.

Mobile phone services for post-paid subscribers resumed in Kashmir after 72 days on Monday noon, without any internet facilities. By about 5 PM, SMS services had been suspended too, dulling the euphoria of about 40 lakh subscribers delighted at the prospect of their phones coming back to life, officials said. “SMS services were stopped last evening as a precautionary measure,” said an official.

Two militants, including a suspected Pakistani national, shot dead the driver of a Rajasthan truck and assaulted an orchard owner in Jammu and Kashmir’s Shopian district around 8 PM on Monday.

Police said the deceased was identified as Sharief Khan and the militants carried out the attack in Shirmal village in desperation as fruit transportation was picking up in the Valley.

Phones fell silent on August 5, when the Centre revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and reorganised the state into two union territories.

The government kept to its promise of mobile phones working by Monday noon, but the joy was short-lived. Thousands of subscribers found their services disconnected by telecom companies due to non-payment of bills for the period of the suspension of services.

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Till late Monday evening and from early Tuesday, serpentine queues formed outside the offices of telecom companies as subscribers rushed to clear their outstanding bills. Many subscribers complained that it was a cumbersome process with online payments not an option because of internet services being blocked in Kashmir.

While landline phones were restored last month, internet services on all platforms continue to remain suspended. “Over 25 lakh prepaid mobile phones and other internet services, including WhatsApp, remain deactivated for now,” officials said.

Governor Satya Pal Malik on Monday said internet services would resume very soon, but officials in the security establishment maintained the process might take up to two months. A decision on pre-paid subscribers could be taken next month, they said.

Uncertainty in Kashmir is looming large due to abrogation of Article 370 and 35A.  

All shops, business establishments, fuel refilling stations, schools are shut as Kashmir Valley is on edge since 5 August 2019, when BJP led government scrapped article 370 and article 35A besides divided the State of Jammu and Kashmir into two union Territories (UT) one is Ladkah and Jammu and Kashmir. 

Reports of shutdown purred from different parts of the Kashmir valley even mainstream parties like national conference and people Democratic Party with former chief minister Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti under detention.

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Many other political leaders and businessmen, lawyers, activists and other have also been confined to centaur hotel in Dal Lake. 

Most top level and second rung separatist politicians have been taken into preventive custody while mainstream leaders including two former chief ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti have been either detained or placed under house arrest.

The government has detained former chief minister and sitting Lok Sabha MP from Srinagar Farooq Abdullah under the controversial Public Safety act. 

However Ministry of Home affairs in a statement said that the situation in Kashmir valley is normal.