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India to restore text messaging services in Kashmir

Authorities in Indian-administered Kashmir will restore text messaging services in the disputed region on Wednesday almost five months after India’s government downgraded its semi-autonomy and imposed a strict security and communications lockdown, an official said on Tuesday.

Local government spokesman Rohit Kansal said the decision was made after a review of the situation.

He said broadband internet services in government-run hospitals would also be restored. The curbs on broadband internet and mobile internet services for other users will remain.

Authorities fear that separatists demanding independence from Indian rule will use the internet to provoke protests in the region that could morph into large-scale street demonstrations.

Tensions in Kashmir, which is divided between Pakistan and India but claimed by both in its entirety, have escalated since New Delhi’s surprise decision in early August to downgrade the region’s semi-autonomy.

India followed the move by sending in tens of thousands of extra troops, detaining thousands of people and blocking cellphone and internet services.

The government had earlier said the restrictions on communication services were “in the interest of maintenance of public order”.

Some communications services, like post-paid and landline phones, were restored in October in a phased manner.

Kashmir’s troubles began in 1947, with the first days of Indian and Pakistani independence, as the two countries both claimed the region in its entirety. They have since fought two of three wars over their rival claims, with each administering a part of the territory, which is divided by a heavily militarised line of control.

On the Indian side, most public protests were peaceful until 1989, when armed rebels rose up demanding the region’s independence or a merger with Pakistan.

Nearly 70,000 people have been killed in that uprising and the ensuing military crackdown.

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