Kashmiris fear their mobile phone calls might be tapped by govt agencies

After 69 days of clampdown, the government on Saturday decided to restore the postpaid mobile phone services in Kashmir. The Kashmiris felt relieved, but with a worry...

Representational image
Representational image

Gulzar Bhat

After 69 days of clampdown, the government on Saturday announced that mobile phone services would be restored in Kashmir.

The initial excitement after the news came was quickly replaced by a worry. A general apprehension among the people is that if they could speak freely on their phones. They fear that every call they make might be monitored by the security agencies.

"It is such a respite. At least I can speak to my children studying in Delhi “, said Ayesha Shah, a Srinagar resident.

But Shah quickly adds that telephone here has no longer remained a private affair.

The communication lines in Jammu and Kashmir were shut off around midnight on August 4. The radical move came some 12 hours before the central dispensation revoked the special status of state and split it into two union territories Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.

On Saturday, Rohit Kansal, government spokesperson told reporters that postpaid mobile phone service would be resumed from October 14 noon while the people had to wait for some more time for resumption of internet.

Merely a few days after the unprecedented clamp down, government restored the mobile phones of some of its senior level police and civil officials. A few officers confided in this reporter that their numbers were blocked as soon as they shared information with their friends living in Indian mainland  about the prevailing situation in Kashmir.

"My number was blocked soon after I informed a Delhi based friend that things are not normal here. And it was around third week of August" , said a senior government official.

For making a phone call, he said, his office witnessed long queues of people during the month of August.

"My staff would strictly warn them of  saying anything about the current situation in valley on phone", he said.

The fixed line telephony throughout the valley started ringing from the first week of September which provided a slight relief to people.

Many PCO's operators, who like most of shopkeepers, open their shops briefly in the morning and evening hours with their shutters half drawn warn their customers to stay clear of discussing present situation in the Valley over phone.

"Any such talk could put your number on the blacklist. I think mobile phones will be more closely monitored by the authorities", says a PCO owner in Baramulla town.

While the Saturday's announcement undoubtedly enthused the post-paid users in Kashmir, the prepaid users started a hunt for obtaining postpaid SIM cards amid a shut down.

A few youth told National Herald that they were even planning to travel to Jammu to procure a post-paid SIM cards.

Kashmir has around 66 lakh mobile phone users. Of them 40 lakh use post-paid mobile telephony.

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