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Forget video calling, even SMSes are banned in Kashmir
Normally cellular operators decide which services they should provide to subscribers and which they shouldn't. But that is true for the world, not for Kashmir valley. It is an irony that here government, not the operators, decides which services should be provided and which ones should be denied to subscribers.

THE MOST unfortunate part of the story is that no one would challenge the government because they have a readymade argument: to prevent any misuse of the services to disrupt the 'peace' in the valley. Ironically national media plays a criminal role in the whole episode - no one would report about the undemocratic ban on services like SMSes.

One just can't place how the government could ban these services when it makes tall claims that peace has returned to the valley, citing the tourist rush. Well, honestly the administration is hiding its loopholes in security and maintaining law and order by choking people through these unjust bans on Internet services and text messaging.

On one hand, the central government is pretending full support and sympathy to the violence-hit region and the very next moment it gives Kashmiris a reason to be alienated by these unjust bans. Recently, a number of Internet services were banned 'unofficially' but that doesn't mean people here can't use those services like Facebook, Twitter etc. They looked for other ways and started using these services by unlocking gateways, bypassing connections and a number of other ways.

One wonders what is the fun of banning these services when people anyway use them. The only people to lose in this process are the service providers, who have to face losses and that certainly gets reflected on the poor economy of the state.

The mobile services started in J&K in 2003 with BSNL becoming the first player to operate in the state. With the passage of time, other operators like AIRTEL, AIRCEL, RELIANCE, TATA, VODAFONE and IDEA started their services in the state. The subscribers in the state enjoyed full services for six years, but what happened after was that blanket bans were imposed on various services in the name of security reasons.

All of a sudden prepaid customers were to asked to submit their verification papers again if they wanted to activate their services. Why was the procedure not followed properly before? Whose responsibility was it?

Earlier, SMS service was banned in Jammu and Kashmir on prepaid phones, which is still operational, while in 2010 all the prepaid cell phone services were temporarily made dysfunctional, citing security reasons. The services were restored after Chief Minister Omar Abdullah intervened, but still few essential services are banned in J&K, again in the name of security reasons.

When it comes to J&K why is government always choosing actions which only affect the local populace? Insurgency and violence are not only limited to this picturesque state. There are many states in India facing the Naxal problem, which has been called 'India's biggest internal security threat' by prime minister Manmohan Singh. Cellular services are available there. Why different yardsticks for J&K?

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