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