Indian-held Kashmir, government tightens grip on internet monitoring

NEW DELHI: In a bid to monitor internet usage in Indian-held Kashmir, the central government has asked telecom operators to provide mechanisms for fool-proof monitoring of internet traffic and has also banned several links to Youtube and Facebook pages, it was reported on Monday.

According to a report on IBN-LIVE, internet users in the disputed region have complained of inability to access the social networking website and the video-sharing platform since, on the pretext of aiming to avoid violence emanating from online hate content, the Indian government has issued orders to internet service providers (ISPs) to restrict access to the websites.

“In the interest of public safety and for maintaining public order, the government directed all licensed Telecom Service Providers and Internet Service Providers to make arrangements to ensure that their subscribers in Jammu and Kashmir should not be able to download or upload the contents,” the order reportedly said.

Meanwhile, the Union Government has also urged private telecom operators to provide swiftly provide a mechanism for “fool-proof monitoring of internet traffic in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, especially for smart-phone users.”

The order, according to a Indian Express report, was issued after the Indian Department of Telecom had found that monitoring equipment of at least two operators (Vodafone and Aircel) did not comply with standards.

The directives, the report added, was issued at the behest of Indian secret agencies, which wanted to monitor the internet traffic in the occupied territory, especially since “rumours are floated and incendiary pictures posted on the web,” the sources quoted by the report said.

However, the operators refuted the claim by the Department of Telecom, saying that they complied with the norms. “Before starting our services, the Government (New Delhi) has inspected and certified to start this service,” said one of the operators.

A complaint has been submitted to the Indian Home Ministry for action against the operations not willing to install the Internet monitoring system.

However, in a note prepared by Director (Access Service) P. C. Sharma, it was mentioned that while other telecom operators in Jammu and Kashmir had provided complete monitoring solutions to internet, especially on mobile phones, Vodafone and Aircel “had not complied with the requirements of installation of mobile internet traffic monitoring.”

The note was submitted to Home Ministry for further action as deemed fit, the sources said, adding the security agencies had remarked that it was difficult to get real-time information from some of the telecom operators leading to failure of some the operations.

Previously, the Indian government has placed internet bans, as well as those on the use of pre-paid cell-phone services, which had led to widespread protests.

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