India ended an 18-month ban on high-speed internet for mobile devices in Kashmir.
But the order issued by the region’s home secretary, Shaleen Kabra, asked police officials to “closely monitor the impact of lifting restrictions" on 4G services.
A blanket internet ban, the longest in a democracy and described as “digital apartheid” by campaigners, took effect in August 2019, when India stripped Kashmir of its special status and statehood.
The region was divided into two federally governed territories.
The decision was accompanied by a security clampdown and communications blackout that made hundreds of thousands of people jobless, harmed the already feeble healthcare system and paused the education of millions.
Months later, India gradually eased some of the restrictions, and restored partial internet connectivity.
In January last year, authorities allowed the territory’s more than 12 million people to access government-approved websites over slow connections.
Two months later, authorities revoked a ban on social media and restored full internet connectivity, but not high-speed internet. In August, 4G services were allowed in two out of the region’s 20 districts.
Officials said the internet ban was aimed at heading off anti-India protests and attacks by rebels who have fought for decades for the region’s independence or unification with Pakistan, which administers another portion of Kashmir.
Many Kashmiris, however, view the move as part of the beginning of colonialism aimed at engineering a demographic change in India’s only Muslim-majority region.
The internet ban was criticised by politicians in Europe and the US, who called on the government to end the curbs.
Omar Abdullah, the region’s former most senior elected official who was jailed for several months in 2019, welcomed the internet restoration.
“Better late than never,” he tweeted.
Most of India’s internet shutdowns have been enforced in Kashmir but they have also been used elsewhere by the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Authorities have cut the internet at protest sites outside New Delhi, where tens of thousands of farmers have camped out against new agriculture laws for more than two months.
– Reporting by The Associated Press