India Vows to Restore Mobile Service in Kashmir

India Vows to Restore Mobile Service in Kashmir


The Indian government has inched toward reopening the region recently, announcing this past week that tourists could again travel there.

But Mr. Kansal, the government spokesman in Srinagar, said that some restrictions were still needed “so that externally aided terrorism does not lead to a loss of lives,” a line often repeated by Indian officials.

But keeping Kashmir frozen has led to problems. Around Srinagar, the streets are still empty. Soldiers are everywhere. Many Western countries, including the United States, continue to strongly discourage their citizens from traveling to the region, and some Kashmiris are now asserting that the police have threatened to evacuate them from their homes to make space for additional troops.

Business has also taken a hit. Recently, the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce said the two-month shutdown had led to losses of more than $1.4 billion, as shopkeepers have protested the crackdown by refusing to restart trade. Many Kashmiris said they would not open their shops even if restrictions were eased in coming days.

“The issue of land and identity is more important to Kashmiris than cellphone service,” said Noor Mohammad Baba, a political analyst in Srinagar. “They think that by restoring mobile phones, the valley will slowly limp back to normal. But they could be wrong.”

The government’s announcement on Saturday, if it is implemented, also comes with limitations.

Indian officials said cell service would be restored only for those with or billing plans associated with phone companies, as opposed to prepaid phones. That means a continued wait for many people in the Jammu and Kashmir region. And though landlines largely work, there was still no word on Saturday on when internet service would be restored.

Outside his shuttered grocery store in Srinagar, Muntazir Amin, 45, said that even if communication started to improve, he would open his business only if the government released hundreds of Kashmiris still in detention. He said a much broader effort to rebuild confidence in the region was needed.

“Have we lost our sons for the last 29 years because we wanted mobile phones?” he asked, referring to decades of conflict that have killed tens of thousands of people. “We want freedom from Indian occupation, not restoration of mobile phones.”



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