India Reverses Order to Restrict SMS in Kashmir

India's Department of Telecommunications (DOT) reversed late Friday its order, announced earlier in the day, to restrict SMS (short message service) in the politically sensitive state of Jammu and Kashmir.

The order, which was to come into effect at midnight on Friday, was opposed by the country's home ministry. "We have advised the DOT to withdraw the order," Onkar Kedia, spokesman for the home ministry said late Friday.

The federal government may have changed its plan as it came under pressure from Omar Abdullah, the chief minister of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, according to media reports. Kedia declined to comment on why the home ministry had decided to advise the DOT to withdraw its plan.

This is the second time that the federal government has modified its orders on the use of mobile phones in Jammu and Kashmir, where it believes terrorists are misusing mobile services to plan attacks and incite violence among locals.

In January, it revoked a ban that it imposed in October on the issue of new prepaid mobile phone connections, and the renewal of existing prepaid connections in Jammu and Kashmir. The federal government said in January it was revoking its earlier order, after introducing rules for stricter verification of users' identities.

The order by the DOT earlier on Friday included a number of restrictions on the use of SMS in Jammu and Kashmir state, citing national security reasons.

The DOT, for example, ordered mobile service providers providing services in Jammu and Kashmir not to deliver to mobile subscribers in the service area any SMS messages that originate outside the Jammu and Kashmir area, including from the networks of international long distance service providers.

Separatist Kashmiri Muslim groups are demanding independence for the part of Kashmir currently under Indian control. The other part of Kashmir is controlled by Pakistan.

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