India restores incoming SMS in Kashmir, mobile internet still cut

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House boats are seen in Jhelum river amid fog in Srinagar on Tuesday. — AFP

SRINAGAR, India — 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.

The Aug. 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.

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.

Companies and customers had complained the clampdown meant they were suddenly unable to conduct simple, day-to-day transactions.

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.

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 security sources said then that the decision to cut the messaging services was taken to reduce the ability of militants to communicate.

Users still cannot access app-based messaging platforms as mobile internet services remain blocked.

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.

An insurgency against Indian rule has been waged since 1989 in Kashmir, claiming tens of thousands of lives. — AFP


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