Hours after mobile service restoration, SMSes blocked in Kashmir

While over 25 lakh prepaid mobile connections and internet service remained deactivated, the text messaging service was suspended around 5 pm on Monday. Photo: PTI File.

Hours after the government restored postpaid mobile connectivity in Kashmir on Monday, officials have blocked short message services (SMS) in the valley as a “precautionary measure”. It dulled the euphoria of about 40 lakh subscribers delighted at the prospect of their phones coming back to life.

While over 25 lakh prepaid mobile connections and internet service remained deactivated, the text messaging service was suspended around 5 pm.

Phones fell silent on August 5, when the Centre revoked special status granted to Jammu and Kashmir and reorganized the state into two union territories. Last month, landline phone connectivity was restored.

Though the government kept to its promise of restoring mobile services by Monday noon, the joy was short-lived. Thousands of subscribers found their services disconnected due to the non-payment of bills for the period of the suspension of services.

Until late Monday evening and from early Tuesday, serpentine queues formed outside the offices of telecom companies as subscribers rushed to clear their outstanding bills. It is a cumbersome process with online payments, not an option because of internet services being blocked in Kashmir, many subscribers complained.

Governor Satya Pal Malik on Monday said internet services would resume very soon, but officials in the security establishment maintained the process might take up to two months. A decision on pre-paid subscribers could be taken next month, officials said.

In Jammu, communication was restored within days of the blockade and the mobile internet was started around mid-August. However, after its misuse, internet facilities on cell phones was snapped on August 18.

Markets and other business establishments remained closed, while most of the public transport was off the roads across the Valley. A large number of private vehicles, including some taxis and autorickshaws, were seen running in many parts of Srinagar and some roadside vendors too plied their trade.

The efforts of the state government to open schools have not borne any fruit as parents continued to keep children home due to apprehensions about their safety. Government offices are open and attendance in most offices is near normal, the officials said.

Most top-level and second-rung separatist politicians have been taken into preventive custody, while mainstream leaders, including two former chief ministers — Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, have been either detained or placed under house arrest.

The government has detained former chief minister and sitting Lok Sabha MP from Srinagar Farooq Abdullah under the controversial Public Safety Act, a law enacted by his father and National Conference founder Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah in 1978, when he was the chief minister.

Meanwhile, two terrorists, including a suspected Pakistani national, shot dead the driver of a Rajasthan-bound truck and assaulted an orchard owner in Shopian district.

Police said the terrorists had carried out the attack in Shirmal village around 8 pm in desperation as fruit transportation was picking up in the Valley. The deceased has been identified as Sharief Khan.