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After over four-and-a-half months of suspension, internet services in all government-run hospitals and SMS facility to all postpaid mobile phones in Kashmir have been restored.

Earlier in October, postpaid mobile phone services on all networks were restored. However, prepaid mobile and internet services are yet to be resumed in the entire Valley.

“It has been decided to restore internet connectivity to all government hospitals with effect from midnight of December 31 besides fully restoring SMS on mobile phones,” said Rohit Kansal, principal secretary & official spokesperson for the Jammu and Kashmir administration.

Communication services in Jammu and Kashmir were curtailed on August 5, 2019 when the Union government revoked the state’s special status under Article 370 and bifurcated it into two Union Territories – Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh.

Five political leaders, who had been under preventive detention since August 5, were released from the MLA hostel in Srinagar this week. However,  former Jammu and Kashmir chief ministers Farooq Abdullah,Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti are still under detention.

“There is continuous assessment of situation. Local authorities will take call on their [political detainees’] release at an appropriate time,” Jammu and Kashmir official spokesperson Rohit Kansal said.

Mobile internet services were restored in Kargil district of Ladakh last week after remaining suspended for 145 days.

On December 10, 2019, machine-based SMSes were enabled for mobile phones in Kashmir in order to help students, scholarship aspirants, traders and others, and that restoration of full message services was part of the process.

Over 900 internet touch points were installed in prominent tourist places and hotels in Jammu and Kashmir to facilitate students, contractors, tour operators and government officials, claims Kansal.

In a statement released earlier this week, the Kashmir Press Club demanded an immediate restoration of internet services and asked the government to allow free and unconditional access to internet. It also highlighted the role of government in ensuring freedom to the fourth estate and securing measures to ensure right to free speech and free expression.

“The gag has adversely affected the ground reporting and news gathering operations. It has now become untenable for journalists and media organisations to operate out of the makeshift media facilitation centre which is inadequate to accommodate reporters, editors, photojournalists and video journalists of over 200 publications and scores of bureaus,” said the statement issued by the press club.

Access Now, an international digital rights group, reported that the internet shutdown in Jammu and Kashmir has been the longest in a democracy.

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