SRINAGAR, India (Reuters) – India lifted some restrictions on internet access in Kashmir on Wednesday, including allowing access to social media websites for the first time since the restive Himalayan region was locked down and its autonomy revoked in August.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government withdrew the special rights of Jammu and Kashmir – then India’s only Muslim majority state – and split it into two federally administered territories last August, arguing the move was necessary to spur development.
At the same time, New Delhi flooded the heavily-militarized region – which is also claimed in full by arch-rival Pakistan – with additional troops, detained scores of people, and imposed harsh movement and communications restrictions.
Most of those restrictions were gradually eased but curbs on communications remained, with social media websites including Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram blocked and internet speeds throttled, particularly on mobile phones.
On Monday, in a government order reviewed by Reuters, authorities said only speed restrictions on mobile internet access would remain in place until mid-March.
Riyaz Mir, managing director of CNS Infotec, a private internet provider in Kashmir’s main city of Srinagar, said he had restored access to social media and all other websites on his networks.
Authorities had earlier said that the months-long ban was required to quell unrest over the withdrawal of the region’s autonomy, although many residents were using virtual private network (VPN) apps to circumvent the restrictions.
Reporting by Fayaz Bukhari; Writing by Devjyot Ghoshal; Editing by Alex Richardson