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Mobile Messaging Services Restored in Kashmir

Aditya Vaibhav, New Delhi: In what may be described as a New Year gift to the Kashmiris, the centre restored mobile messaging services in Kashmir from Tuesday midnight, nearly five months since its suspension post abrogation of Article 370. Broadband internet services are now allowed in hospitals across the Union Territory from the New Year, although curbs on civilian use may remain.

The curbs on internet and mobile messaging services were part of the communications clampdown imposed on Jammu and Kashmir after the scrapping of its special status under Article 370 on August 5. The authorities said it was done to ensure that “trouble-makers” do not succeed in mobilising the people against the administration.

The centre’s decision to ease restrictions in Kashmir was announced by Rohit Kansal, official spokesman of the union territory administration, at a presser on Tuesday. Mr Kansal also said that the government has decided to do away with the goods toll charged at the Lakhanpur post under the Jammu and Kashmir Levy of Toll Act Samvat-1995 from the start of the new year. This has been a long-standing demand among truckers in the region, and the All Jammu and Kashmir Transport Welfare Association had even called a strike earlier this year to protest against the toll.

These decisions come amid an ongoing relaxation of rules across the union territory by the central government, after an extended clampdown aimed at ensuring that people do not rise in revolt. Five politicians belonging to the National Conference and Peoples Democratic Party were released from custody on Monday, although their leaders — Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti — continue to remain in detention.

Most political leaders in the region were detained hours before the centre took the unprecedented step of scrapping the state’s special status, underlining the importance of ensuring that they do not fan dissent among the people. Jammu-based political leaders were released in October, two months later. Mobile internet facilities were restored in Kargil, which is a part of the Ladakh union territory, on Friday.

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