Srinagar, April 29
Mobile internet services were today restored after remaining suspended for two weeks in view of upward spiral in student protests in Kashmir against use of alleged disproportionate force at Pulwama Degree College on April 15. However, social media sites, including Facebook and Whatsapp, have been blocked following directions by state government. The state Home Department, which is headed by Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, on Wednesday, directed all cellular companies to block 22 social networking sites, observing they were being misused by ‘anti-national’ elements to disturb peace in Kashmir. Although the order for the suspension of the social networking sites was given on Wednesday, it took cellular companies four days to successfully ban the sites and restore their internet services. But, these sites are still accessible by broadband services of state-run BSNL and though Virtual Private Networks (VPN). A significant number of mobile internet users of different telecom companies claimed that they are using Facebook, Whatsapp and other blocked sites though VPN, hence bypassing the curb on social media. Meanwhile, after facing criticism for allowing these banned sites on its 2G mobile network, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) yesterday stopped the service. The state Home Department had on April 26 directed all cellular companies, including BSNL, to block messaging services, besides social networking sites, including Facebook with immediate effect, for a period of one month or till further orders, whichever is earlier. The order said “it has been observed that some elements are transmitting objectionable contents to spread disaffection among the public at large in Kashmir against the state administration and the security forces, with a view to incite them to commit various offences at a large scale, cause damage to life and property and disturb peace and tranquility.” Social networking sites which were directed to be blocked included Facebook, Whatsapp, Twitter, WeChat, Ozone, QQ, Google+, Tumblr, Baidu, Viber, Line, Pinterest, Snapchat, Telegram, Skype and Reditt.
The government had invoked the powers conferred on it under Indian Telegraph Act, 1885 read with Indian Telegraph (Amendment) Rules 2007 to ban these sites and applications. “On careful examination of all relevant factors, it is observed that the use of social media platforms, which are being misused by anti-national and anti-social elements by transmitting inflammatory messages in various forms, are immediately required to be regulated/curbed,” the order said. The order further said that the anti-national and inimical elements largely succeed in transmitting unverified, objectionable and inflammatory material and content through the medium of these social networking sites.