India partially lifts internet block in Kashmir

Social media is still not accessible in the territory, however.
Written by Campbell Kwan, Contributor

The Indian government partially revoked its internet shutdown within Jammu and Kashmir over the weekend, allowing people in the union territory to regain internet access to around 300 websites. 

The partial lift brings an end to a full-blown internet shutdown that had lasted for almost six months. Since August last year, internet, mobile phone, and landline services in Jammu and Kashmir were suspended after the government came to the decision to remove the union territory's partial autonomy. 

The Jammu and Kashmir Home Department had made public the details of the first whitelist [PDF] over a week ago, but the initial whitelist only contained 153 websites. 

With the official whitelist [PDF], the Home Department expanded the number of accessible websites to 301. Among the whitelisted websites include content platforms, like Netflix and Spotify, as well as international news outlets such as BBC, the New York Times, and Washington Post

Mobile data access has also been restored to the union territory for residents "whose credentials have been verified as per the norms applicable for the post-paid connections", but they will be limited to using only 2G connectivity.

Social media websites such as Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok continue to remain blocked, however.

According to Home Department officials, the internet blocks of non-whitelisted websites are still necessary as there are concerns around the "propagation of terror activities", the "circulation of inflammatory material," and the "coordination of activities inimical to the security of the state".

The partial lifting of the internet restrictions comes shortly after the Supreme Court ordered for the Indian government to undergo a review of its suspension of internet services in the union territory. 

The court had ruled that internet access is guaranteed under India's Constitution due to freedom of speech and expression, with the presiding judges saying that the suspension of internet access was a "drastic measure" that could only be considered by the state only if it was necessary or unavoidable.

They further clarified that an indefinite shutdown of internet services was both excessive and unconstitutional, even if "the government is entitled to restrict the freedom of speech and expression guaranteed". 

Separately, India has surpassed the United States for the first time in becoming the second-largest smartphone market globally in 2019, with the country receiving over 158 million smartphone shipments in 2019, Counterpoint Research said.

According to the market research firm, the shipment uptick was due to the growth of the mid-tier segment where "Chinese brands aggressively introduced many flagship-grade features and capabilities to capture demand coming from users looking to upgrade from their first or second smartphone". 

Xiaomi holds roughly 28% of the market after shipping 36.9 million phones to India in the second quarter of 2019. Xiaomi's fellow Chinese rivals -- Oppo, Vivo, and Realme -- have also flooded the Indian market, with these companies holding more than 60% of market share in India.


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