Popular websites Youtube and Facebook have been blocked in Indian-administered Kashmir, local media reported.
Internet users in Kashmir were unable to access Facebook and YouTube after the Indian government had issued orders to Internet service providers to restrict access to the websites, IBNLive reported on Monday.
The move is believed to be “in response to the protests against the anti-Islam video on YouTube but it now seems that access to the entire websites have been restricted”, IBNLive reported.
In late September, reports indicated that the Jammu & Kashmir state government had told service providers to ensure that the controversial YouTube video was not accessible by users in the troubled state.
Mass protests broke out in Kashmir in September over the anti-Islam film posted on YouTube that drew outrage from large parts of the Muslim world.
The order to block the video was issued by the state Home Department, invoking the powers conferred under section 5(2) of the Indian Telegraph Act 1885.
Responding to the blocking of YouTube and Facebook, Hameeda Nayeem, chairperson of the Kashmir Centre of Social and Development Studies (KCSDS), told Al Jazeera “surveillance of social media websites in Kashmir was not new”.
“In 2010 (during the protests), Facebook was monitored and many boys were arrested because of their activities on Facebook,” she said.
“There has always been surveillance … the latest move is based on that blasphemous film, but it is just another excuse to monitor and block communication services. For instance, SMS services have often been turned off in the state”.
A Greater Kashmir newspaper report on Sunday said that telecom providers had confirmed that a block was in place.
“Basically government has issued a directive to block the Facebook but other services are functioning,” Ataullah Haque, General Manager of the Reliance (J&K) said.
Aga Ruhullah, Jammu & Kashmir’s minister for information technology, denied any state intervention.
“There is not any ban on these websites. I don’t have proper information of it. I can’t confirm whether there is any technical snag in it,” Ruhullah told Greater Kashmir.
SM Sahai, Inspector General of Police for Jammu and Kashmir, could not immediately be reached for comment.
India has been criticised for certain internet censorship policies in the past, most recently when it had social networking sites remove what it called objectionable content.
In March, Reporters without Borders listed India as one of five countries ‘under surveillance’ for censoring certain content or punishing users for illegal downloads.
In June, Google, as part of its bi-annual transparency report, said that there was 49 per cent increase in content censorship in India.
Kashmir has been at the core of the acrimonious relationship between India and Pakistan over the past six decades.
The nuclear-armed neighbours having fought two of their three wars since 1947 over the disputed territory, which is claimed by both in full but ruled in parts.
Tens of thousands of people have been killed in Indian-administered Kashmir since an armed revolt against New Delhi’s rule erupted in 1989.
The Himalayan region is one of the world’s most militarised zones, with India deploying more than 1.3 million troops to quell the rebellion.