Will ban on pre-paid mobile connections further alienate Kashmiris?

November 3, 2009

Rebel violence in Indian Kashmir has fallen to its lowest level since an insurgency began nearly two decades ago.

But the central government has banned pre-paid mobile connections in the strife-torn state, leaving nearly three million subscribers disconnected over security concerns.

The ban, which comes days after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh offered fresh talks with Kashmiris, has annoyed local residents while troops deployed in the state are also distressed over getting disconnected from their families.

The ban also put around 20,000 youths in danger of finding themselves without a job.

Is the ban justified at a time when rebel violence is at its lowest and New Delhi is trying to win the hearts and minds of Kashmiris?

The ban follows reports that neither vendors nor service providers carry out thorough identity checks on buyers when issuing a connection.

Until five years ago, intelligence officials resisted attempts by the central government to lift a ban on mobile phone services in the region, fearing they could aid militants in planning attacks.

New Delhi allowed mobile phone services in Kashmir in 2003, eight years after the rest of India, now the world’s fastest-growing market for cellular services.

But security forces say troops have eliminated many militants in Kashmir by tracking their mobile phones and tapping conversations.

The government of Jammu and Kashmir, India’s only Muslim-majority state, said it would take up the issue of banning pre-paid connections with New Delhi to ensure that genuine users do not suffer and security is also not compromised.

“It is not a positive development,” a state government spokesman said.

Will the ban on pre-paid mobile phone connections in Kashmir further alienate people?

65 comments

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look, everyone in india has to provide proof of ID, including identity papers or passport, and a picture. i have to do that every time i get a prepaid sim card.
if the vendors in kashmir can’t do that, something is wrong. everyone else in the country seems to be able to follow the rules.

Posted by theTruth | Report as abusive

prepaid mobiles as postpaid mobiles should be banned in kashmir, it will not only help society in general but will get rid of so many bad things.

Posted by ajaz | Report as abusive

I dont think banning pre-paid connections in Kashmir would lead to less terrorist activities, cell phones are being used in Kashmir since 2004, but the terrorist activities are going on since early 90′s & moreover militants would be using much more sophisticated equipment to communicate. If the Home Minister thinks pre-paid connections pose a security threat he should have implemented this rule in the capital which is more susceptible to these threats

Posted by Azam Khan | Report as abusive

Banning pre-paid in Kashmir is not by choice but one of the steps to make the state more secure. On one hand, this will lead to some unemployment & hinderance in communication but we also must understand this is done for the safety of people only…

Looking at other’s comments I guess the better way would have been to make the process of new pre-paid connection more secure. Only people in the state cannot be held accountable but the mobile operators should co-operate with people and the govt. The other alternative would have been to make post-paid as beneficial as pre-paid with no compromise on thorough background check. Which could mean reduction in rentals and calls charges so that the people who rely on cellphones genuinely do not feel deprived of their rights to use technology.

Posted by Rusty | Report as abusive

Instead of pleading, people of Kashmir should co -operate with the Govt on all its initiatives to make life more secure and better.

Posted by Shivakumar Ramakrishna | Report as abusive

i see it as a harassing tool, apart from many who are rendered jobless. This ban won’t alienate us, but surely it will add fuel to fire… Back in 2003 when mobile phones were introduced in kashmir, it was then a disputed area and it is now, the security problem was then and now, i don’t understand the sudden ban on prepaid SIMs., for me it is an opening to another conspiracy!!!!

Posted by Mudassir | Report as abusive

The picture with the article is horriyingly stereotypical reienforcing the idea that Kashmiris are strange and more like the Western/Indian image of a terrorist. Ordinary Kashmiri on a phone is not unlike any other homo sapien on the phone.

One would see this as an ordinary interest in the exotic if there wasn’t a pattern visible in all reporting.

Posted by gowhar | Report as abusive

It seems obvious now that our government can make any decision forced on citizens at the behest of security reasons. We spend 1/3 of budget on defence. still technology is not safe. then where are we spending. where does the defence budget go if at the end we tax payers have to suffer? is the defence budget spent at the parties and tours of defence personnels?

Posted by usha | Report as abusive

Yes this will alienate the common people I do not understand why there should be two technically different procedures of identity checks for buying Prepaid and Post Paid mobile service: an easier procedure for Pre-paid connection than the post paid connection. I think there should only be one countrywide common procedure which is really a stringent one for both the connections; no matter how much it may cost to both the parties – mobile service operators and the customers.

Posted by Ahti | Report as abusive

Rather then see it as a negative thing, the banning of pre-paid phones is just another extension of the Indian government’s pledge to incorporate Kashmiris into India. Due to the improving security situation, the need for constant monitoring has reduced and rather an olive branch has been offered to honest and good civilians to move over to a billing cycle backed with documentation, so they can be taken off the suspect list.

Posted by shabir | Report as abusive

there are many ways of ensuring that genuine users do not suffer and so called security is also not compromised, why dont they just ask the operators to cross examine the users and only stop the services of doubtful subscribers. As far as alienation is concerned government of India least bothered what people of Kashmir think and want.

Posted by tanve | Report as abusive

Its is one more expamle set up by India that they have kept kashmiris at their mercy. When all the kashmiris feel safe in kashmir with mobile services on. I dont know why people in security feel scared sitting in delhi.

Posted by accram | Report as abusive

@I dont know why people in security feel scared sitting in delhi.”
- Posted by accram

-Because they have to rule from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, not just Delhi.

Some commenters make it sound as if this move gives some sadistic pleasure to the govt.

Posted by rajeev | Report as abusive

This is typical Delhi heavyhandedness that will cost India dearly. If security was a concern, here was a golden opportunity to make prepaid cards very easily available, with the hidden catch being that the operator allowed all conversations to be tapped. Not only would they have avoided pissing off the entire state’s population, they could also have listened in on the calls that would have tipped them off about terrorist activities.

Good to see the unimaginative babu mentality is alive and well in Delhi, 25 years after the death of the original heavyhanded prime minister.

Ganesh

Posted by Ganesh Prasad | Report as abusive

Ganesh
you should be made security consultant for chidambaram… brilliant idea ma. why I never thought about it before. keep posting mate.