The Jammu and Kashmir administration on Wednesday ordered the continuance of 2G mobile data services in the Union territory till April 27, even as the demand for restoration of high-speed 4G internet grows in view of the coronavirus outbreak.
As per an order issued by Principal Secretary, Home Department, Shaleen Kabra, internet speed on mobile phones in the region will be restricted to 2G only.
“According to the directions related to the regulation of telecom services, issued on 3rd April 2020, the overall Security Scenario in the Union Territory of J&K has been reviewed, more specifically with reference to the reports of the law enforcement agencies which have, among other things, brought out the usage of social media applications for circulation of photographs of (militants) of proscribed (militant) organizations and for mobilizing crowds, one such instance being when more than 500 villagers gathered to attend the funeral of a (militant), defying the lock-down and throwing social-distancing norms to the wind,” the order issued by J&K’s home department reads.
It said Pakistan based militant outfits are leaving no stone unturned to exploit the present situation as seen by recent infiltration attempts, which also caused security forces’ causalities. “There have also been many instances of civilian killings by (militants), attacks on Security forces, recoveries of arms/ ammunition, attempt to propagate terrorism through the uploading of videos, coordinating infiltration from across the border, the launch of new terror outfits, etc., during this period.”
As on date, it said, access to the internet is available through fixed-line without any speed restrictions. However, in respect of mobile internet, speed has been restricted to 2G.
“While these restrictions have not posed any hindrance to COVID-19 control measures, they have reduced incidents of misuse of social media by way of uploading and circulation of provocative audio/video content, fake news, rumour mongering, coordination of militant activities and other such acts that rely upon high-speed mobile connectivity,” it said.
Upon consideration of the available inputs, and taking note of ‘misuse’ of social media applications in militant activities as also in adversely impacting public order, the order said that it is apparent that there is need for continuation of the speed restrictions on mobile internet services.
Subsequently, the Principal Secretary to the Government, Home Department, ordered that the internet speed shall be restricted to 2G only.
“While the postpaid sim cardholders shall continue to be provided access to the internet, these services shall not be made available on pre-paid sim cards unless verified as per the norms applicable for post-paid connections,” the order said, adding, “The directions shall be effective from 16.04.2020 and remain in force till 27.04.2020 unless modified earlier.”
The order said the directions shall be effective immediately and remain in force up to April 27.
Several political parties, including the National Conference, the CPI(M), the BJP and the Congress, have batted strongly for restoration of 4G mobile internet services in Jammu and Kashmir to help people to deal with the unprecedented situation that has arisen in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
The restrictions on mobile internet have been taken given reports received from the intelligence and law enforcement agencies.
“The internet speed restrictions have while enabling access to essential services and sites, not posed any hindrance to COVID-19 control measures or to access online educational content, but checked the unfettered misuse of social media for incitement and propagating and coordinating terror activities,” reads the order.