Airtel Blocks Social Media Sites in Valley


Srinagar: The Airtel has restored mobile internet service today though the company has blocked social networking, including Facebook and Whatsapp, in the Kashmir valley.

Mobile internet service of all Cellular companies, including Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL), was suspended following massive protests by students across Kashmir valley, demanding action against security force personnel who entered Degree College at Pulwama and allegedly thrash students, including girls on Monday.

However, interestingly, the social media sites are working normally on state run BSNL 2G service.

Meanwhile, mobile internet services – 3G and 4G – of other private players, besides state run-BSNL, remained suspended as authorities have apprehension that they will be used for spreading rumours. 

“We have blocked all social media sites, including Facebook and Whatsapp, followed orders by government. We have also reduced the mobile internet speed to 2G,” a representative of Airtel said.

But, sources in the administration told UNI that other private players have not agreed to the social media ban, following which they were not allowed to restore mobile internet service.

The mobile internet services were suspended on April 17 as precautionary measure in view of an upward spiral in protests by students against use of alleged disproportionate force by security forces on students in Degree College Pulwama. During these protests, various videos, showing alleged use of disproportionate force on students, surfaced on social media, triggering massive protests across the valley.        

The services also remained suspended for five days from April 8 midnight in view of strike call by separatists during bypolls in Srinagar and Anantnag Lok Sabha seats followed by subsequent clashes.

The clashes during by polls to Srinagar parliamentary constituency left eight civilians dead and 150 others, including 100 security force personnel, injured. Following deterioration in the situation and apprehension of more trouble, the Election Commission of India (ECI) deferred bypoll to Anantnag parliamentary constituency.

Since violence hit Kashmir Valley after the death of Hizb commander Burhan Wani on July 8 last year, the broadband Internet and mobile phone services were suspended thrice prior to this gag for around 25 days.

For around a month, the only mobile service functional in Kashmir valley was BSNL while pre-paid services of all cellular companies were restored after a span of three months on October 15 last year.

The mobile Internet services for post-paid connections were restored on November 19 last year after a gag of about five months. Similarly, mobile Internet services for prepaid connections were restored in Kashmir on January 27, six months after they were suspended.

Meanwhile, the telecast of news on local cable channels in the Valley remained banned since 2010, when there were massive protest during which more than 120 people, mostly youths, were killed in security force and police firing in the Valley.

The authorities had also directed bureaucrats and other officers not to participate in any political debate on local cable channels. UNI

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