18 MONTHS AFTER
Kashmir Life|February 14, 2021
On February 5, the sudden restoration of the high-speed mobile internet pleasantly surprised people. But nobody answers the question as to why it took 550 days, reports Saima Bhat
Saima Bhat

Struggling with the slow speed of the internet on Friday, February 5, Aisha, a tenth class student, was downloading tutorials of her new class. Not able to download, she lost hope of completing her assignments on time. Concerned about the embarrassment in the class, she cried. A few hours later, however, Aisha, a resident of Sonwar, was jumping with joy. The high-speed mobile internet (4G) was restored. The high-speed internet restoration resulted in uploading and downloading, almost in a jiffy.

Relaxed, she cleared the backlog updated the gadgets and gallery and started talking and sharing joy with her brother, studying outside Kashmir.

YEAR AND HALF LATER

Snapped in the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, ahead of August 5, 2019, the high-speed mobile internet was restored in the Union Territory on February 5, after a blanket ban of 18 months.

Earlier roaming as a rumour for a couple of days, the news of restoration was confirmed by Rohit Kansal, the government spokesman and senior IAS officer in a late evening tweet. “4G mobile internet services being restored in the entire J&K,” Kansal tweeted.

Later, the order issued by Shaleen Kabra, principal secretary (home) directed Kashmir and Jammu division police chiefs to ensure compliance and “closely monitor the impact of the lifting of restrictions’’. However, the order had a rider that high-speed internet facility on prepaid SIM cardholders would be provided “only after verification as per the norms applicable for postpaid connections”.

The order further said that an “objective assessment of the prevailing circumstances” was done by a special committee constituted on the directions of the Supreme Court order of May 11, 2020.

PROLONGED TRAUMA

Karan Nagar residents, Ghulam Qadir, and his ailing wife used to frequently visit Shaheed Gunj police station hoping to make a call to their son settled outside Kashmir. They could not succeed in the first week. Somehow, when the couple eventually got the chance, only Mrs Qadir could speak. Time was up and the queue was long. The aged couple had to wait for another week to know about the well-being of their son.

This was the scene outside almost every police station in Kashmir when administration snapped connectivity completely. Besides, the fixed-line connections, which had mostly become redundant in homes after the advent of mobile phones, the officials revealed nearly 88 lakh mobile phones were blocked. Later few categorised in the “white list” were thrown open that included numbers of senior civil and police officers.

For Mr A, a senior government officier, the every-day routine was to go and see his aunt; ailing widow living alone in the downtown Srinagar. Not in a position to move around, the only the requirement of the visiting officer was to facilitate a phone call to her son living abroad.

“It was a crisis and she had no option other than me to stay in touch with her son,” said Mr A. This continued for a long time, till her son came back for vacation.

Unlike Mr A, Dr Ahmad used to come home and see a long line of neighbors. All waiting to use his mobile phone, at times it was getting difficult for him. “I was holding a position which involved critical care and keeping the phone busy could have been detrimental to patient care,” he said. “But I could never gather the courage to say no.”

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