A year since high-speed Internet was snapped in Jammu and Kashmir, a top government official said 4G connectivity was barred only on mobile phones and all other “normal applications” were able to function properly with the available Net speed.
Retired IPS officer R.R Bhatnagar, advisor to the Lieutenant Governor of J&K G.C Murmu told The Hindu in an interview that the restrictions imposed after August 5, 2019 were periodically reviewed and many relaxations were given by September the same year. “… and now almost all of them [restrictions] have been removed, except 4G, essentially due to its misuse by Pakistan elements for incitement, radicalisation and terrorism,” he said.
When asked why 4G was not kept suspended, even in the years preceding August 5, 2019 when high number of terrorism related incidents occurred, Mr. Bhatnagar said, “4G was restricted on many occasions even then….For the normal applications to function there is no issue, 4G is available on broadband and telephone lines…hospitals, educational institutes etc. all are using the high-speed Internet.”
Online recruitment process
The government’s recruitment process had been initiated and lakhs had applied through online.
He also claimed security forces have shown considerable restraint and “their observance of human rights has been commendable.”
On August 5 last year, Union Home Minister Amit Shah moved two bills in the Rajya Sabha to revoke the special status of J&K under Article 370 of the Constitution and to downgrade and bifurcate the State into UTs- J&K and Ladakh.
The erstwhile State was placed under an unprecedented lockdown from August 5 and 4G connectivity is yet to be restored.
J&K has been under Central rule since June 2018 after the BJP and the People’s Democratic Party alliance broke.. The 87-member State Assembly was dissolved on November 21 the same year.
Mr. Bhatnagar said that the atmosphere was conducive to hold elections for the vacant panchayat seats, except for the various restrictions put in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Panchayat polls were held in the former State of J&K in 2018 and there are 12,776 vacant sarpanch and panch seats, particularly in south Kashmir as elections couldn’t be held due to security concerns and nil registration by candidates.
A total of 27,281 panches and sarpanches were elected then. Some panches and sarpanches are still living under police protection in Srinagar hotels.
Mr. Bhatnagar said a security assessment of the panchayat functionaries had been made and measures put in place.
He noted that political activity in J&K has resumed, though the COVID-19 guidelines have to be followed. “Political leaders/activists have nearly all been released. Since March this year, there have been 250 releases of PSA [Public Safety Act] detainees,” the former Director General of the Central Reserve Police Force said.
On allegations of Congress leader Saifuddin Soz who has been placed under house arrest without any formal orders, he said, “whatever detention has been done is as per law. As far as Mr. Soz is concerned, there are certain security protocols to be followed by the protectee and at present COVID-19 restrictions are also in place.”
Last week, Mr. Soz (82), a former Union Minister, had to scale a pillar at his Srinagar residence to speak to media persons at his gate when policemen kept warning him. Mr. Soz’s wife had moved the Supreme Court against the ‘illegal’ detention but the top court accepted the administration’s statement that he was not under detention and closed the case.
Mr. Bhatnagar said the number of local youths joining terrorist ranks post August 5, compared to the previous years, showed a drop of 42% and steps were being taken to counter glorification and idolisation of terrorists.
“Of course, any youth joining terrorist ranks is always a matter of concern and so we are addressing all factors which impact recruitment into terrorist ranks… around dozen youths were stopped from joining the terrorists. Stone pelting incidents are down by two-thirds. There has been no civilian casualty in police firing [except in terrorist induced encounters and injuries are also down by nearly a half… close watch and legal action has been taken against the separatists who are also not getting public support. Bandh/Hartal calls have had practically no public response”, he stated.
One hundred and forty-eight terrorists, including important commanders, were killed this year and terrorist initiated incidents were down by 60%. There was decline in the number of security forces killed this year- 40, compared to 117 last year, he added.