With festival season ahead, Kashmiris want SMS back


Jammu : Eid and Navratri are round the corner and the enthusiasm among people in Jammu and Kashmir is high. But they are missing the quick and easy Short Message Service (SMS) they would use earlier to greet family and friends.

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Though things “appear normal and calm”, after the unrest the state witnessed over the Amarnath land transfer row, people are hoping the government will resume the SMS that it jammed two months ago “to stop rumour mongering” during the two-month-long agitation and demonstration across the state.

The SMSes were blocked by the government for “security reasons” on Aug 2 when “people in Jammu were spreading rumours through provocative SMSes that fuelled and fanned the protests during agitation for restoration of land to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board”.

Though the Amarnath Yatra Sangarsh Samiti (AYSS) got the government ban on SMSes lifted by a high court order, it was re-imposed by the Supreme Court that saw reason in blocking the service for the sake of maintaining law and order.

But people want the service back. The service was expected to be resumed in the run-up to the festival season. Suhail Kazmi, a leading journalist, termed it as “most unfortunate that the SMS is not being restored as yet. Both Eid and Navratri are approaching and we have seen that SMSes really spread love during such festivals”.

Shivangi Vaid, a Class 12 student, is irked over the closure of SMS for such a long time. “We used to discuss studies through SMSes, which was a quicker, cheaper and less time consuming way to communicate.” She says the jokes and other messages they shared via SMS would “really freshen us up”.

Ruhi Sharma, a junior doctor, too misses the service. “We could SMS in case of any emergency when we were not able to get in touch with people due to the poor network.”

Expressing helplessness, a senior government official said, “Nothing doing before Oct 6 (separatists have given a call for a march to Lal Chowk in Srinagar that day). We may do some review after that, but it all depends on the situation.”

Justifying the decision, he said, “During the recent trade blockade in the Jammu region, tempers would have been really running high had SMSes been open as people spread provocative messages prompting the situation to spiral out of control.”

An official in the state-run telecommunication department Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) said on condition of anonymity, “There is a provision to start the service for Jammu region by segregating it from the Valley. But the government feels this could annoy Kashmiris.”

To a question about the financial loss incurred by BSNL due to snapping of SMS, he said, “It was a decision taken for the sake of security and national interest, so we have not calculated the losses due to it.”