The centre has decided to restore mobile messaging service in Kashmir from midnight on Tuesday, nearly five months since its suspension. Broadband internet services will also be allowed in hospitals across the union territory from the New Year, even as curbs on civilian use remain.
The curbs on internet and mobile messaging services were part of the 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 were announced by Rohit Kansal, official spokesman of the union territory administration, at a press conference on Tuesday.
Mr Kansal said that mobile messaging services were enabled on select mobile phones on December 10, so as to help students, scholarship applicants and traders from losing out on opportunities due to the communications blackout.
The Jammu and Kashmir spokesperson 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 gains significance in view of a strike called by the All Jammu and Kashmir Transport Welfare Association 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 months of clampdown to ensure that people do not rise in revolt. Five politicians belonging to the National Conference and Peoples Democratic Party were released from custody on Monday, even as their leaders — Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti — remain in detention.
Most of the political leaders in the region were placed in detention hours before the centre took the unprecedented step, saying it was an essential step towards ensuring that they do not fan dissent among the people. Jammu-based political leaders were released in October, two months after being taken into custody.