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Friday, May 24, 2024

India restores incoming text messages to Kashmir: What it means?

New Delhi has allowed incoming text messages from banks and financial institutions to people in Kashmir. This will help with online payment and purchases when a pass word is needed and sent from the financial institutions. However people can not text each other. If this is the level of confidence Delhi has in Kashmir after four months of unilaterally scrapping Art. 370 and 35-A, then what does it mean for future?

India on Tuesday was set to allow some incoming text messages into Kashmir, officials said, four months after they were first blocked when New Delhi moved to strip the region’s autonomy. However this appears only to facilitate the financial purchases where 4-6 digit verification codes are needed from banks and other financial institutions to complete a transaction.

The August 5 communications blackout — which included cutting landlines, mobile phones and internet access — has badly hit locals and businesses especially as texts are an integral part of banking processes.

More than 10,000 Kashmiri political party members, lawyers, doctors, businessmen and students were also detained. Many of these were taken from Srinagar and put into jails across India. It’s not clear as to how many of these have been released so far as an information blackout continues amidst a climate of fear. Many have relatives and friends across Pakistan who are unable to reach them since Aug. 5, 2019.

Officials in Delhi said millions in the restive Himalayan region will be able to receive service messages from Wednesday, including one-time passwords from financial institutions.

They will still be unable to send messages, the officials said. Passwords sent by SMS are widely used for many online purchases and financial transactions in the South Asian nation. It appears that this latest concession is only to facilitate financial transactions where OTP messages are needed for second factor verifications.

Companies and customers had complained the clampdown, of Aug 5, meant they were suddenly unable to conduct simple, day-to-day transactions. More than 4 months have passed since then.

Read more: India blocks SMS services again after violence in Kashmir

Kashmiris said they had to resort to calling relatives or friends outside the valley — home to more than seven million people — after phone lines were gradually restored, to help them make purchases or pay their bills. This latest concession from New Delhi might alleviate this particular suffering.

Text messaging services were restored in mid-October along with mobile phone lines, but then cut again by authorities a few hours later after a truck driver was killed by suspected militants and his vehicle set ablaze.

Indian and Pakistan have disputed Kashmir since they became independent and split in 1947, with the nuclear rivals fighting two out of three wars over the mountainous region

Indian security sources said then that the decision to cut the messaging services was taken to reduce the ability of militants to communicate. Political analysts based in Islamabad, GVS spoke to, believe that these restrictions were put in place to prevent the possibility of a sudden large political backlash and outpouring of public on streets.

Delhi’s unilateral scrapping of Art.370 and 35-A were hugely resented by Kashmiris. No Kashmiri political party or leader supported this action of BJP government. There was no state government in place. PDP/BJP collation had collapsed several months before the May elections and then elections were not held in the state on the pretext of security condition. However most Indian analysts also agree that security condition had steadily improved till June 2014 when Narendra Modi government came to power and stopped engaging the Kashmiri political resistance. Real challenge for Delhi in Kashmir is not security but political.

Kashmiris still cannot access app-based messaging platforms, like WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter and other, as mobile internet services remain blocked. These mobile based internet apps are more difficult to intercept and monitor and play a huge role in creating mass gatherings and political demonstrations.

Read more: Brutal Lockdown Increases Mental Health Challenges in Occupied Kashmir

A popular insurgency against Indian rule has been continuing in Kashmir, since 1989. It coincided with the upheaval in Eastern Europe that lead to the collapse of Soviet Union and ultimately fall of Berlin Wall. In Kashmir, a political unrest that developed after the 1987 massively rigged elections then developed into a full blown insurgency. Pakistan is believed to have initially provided arms, training and finance to Kashmiri separatists. Till late 1990’s training camps of Kashmiris were present in Pakistani administered “Azad Kashmir”.

Insurgency in Kashmir, has claimed tens of thousands of lives, mostly at the hands of security forces. In 2009 several thousand mass graves, more than 6000, were discovered in only three districts of Kashmir. It was estimated that if all districts are searched for the mass graves then figure will go much higher. Much evidence existed, and published in international press that points to custodial killings of young Kashmiri men and women at the hands of Indian security apparatus. These mass graves relate to those custodial killings.

GVS News Desk with input from News Agencies.