India: Cellphone Service Restored in Kashmir

By Amin Ahmed
150606-IN-kashmir-620 An Indian policeman stands guard as Kashmiri Muslims offer Friday prayers in Srinagar, May 29, 2015.

Cellphone and internet services have been restored across Kashmir following a series of attacks by suspected militants targeting communications towers and people linked to the industry, officials said.

The restoration of service followed the arrests on Wednesday of four suspected members of militant outfit Hizbul Mujahideen, including a leader of the group from Sopore, North Kashmir, where the attacks began.

“They are responsible for carrying out attacks in Sopore town and disrupting the communication facility,” North Kashmir Deputy Inspector-General of Police Gareeb Das told BenarNews.

“Mobile service has been fully restored in North Kashmir. Patrolling has been intensified around the sensitive places across North Kashmir to ensure that attempts of militants to disrupt communication service are foiled,” he said.

In the last week of May, in separate attacks in Sopore militants shot dead a telecom worker and a man who hosted a mobile tower on his property. On June 1, militants hurled a grenade at cellphone tower in Srinagar. At least four other people were injured in the attacks there and in Srinagar.

The attacks caused a breakdown of mobile communication systems as panicked businesses shuttered operations and powered down their facilities.

“Over 1000 transmission towers, which were shut down mostly by landlords in whose premises these towers were installed due to fears of attacks from militants, were restored by police. Police teams have been deployed to guard the transmission towers,” Abdul Haq Khan, minister for Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Kashmir, told BenarNews.

The trouble began on May 24, when a little-known militant group calling itself “Lashkar-e-Islam” warned cellular companies to shut their operations, and local people to abandon their mobile recharge businesses and other activities linked with cellular services.

Through posters, which first appeared in militancy-hit Sopore on May 24, the group claimed that the cellular companies and others associated with them were spying for security agencies.

Recharge vendors nervous

However, recharge vendors in some parts of Kashmir are still not operating normally.

“I’m not attending my shop in Sopore town but still do the recharge whenever any person known to me approaches for the same,” said a recharge vendor from Sopore town, who requested anonymity.

“I will wait for some more time to formally resume my business.”

In other major towns in Kashmir, recharge vendors expressed caution about resuming their operations right away.

“Although the mobile service has resumed, I will wait for at least a week to see if there is any further action from the militants against phone companies or others,” said a recharge vendor from Baramulla district, who also asked not to be named.


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