SRINAGAR, India — India revoked on Thursday a ban on pre-paid mobile telephones in Kashmir imposed because authorities accused Muslim militants of using them to co-ordinate attacks and trigger bombs.
Mobile phones were launched in Kashmir only in 2003 when security agencies gave the go-ahead, but separatist militants were soon suspected of relying on pre-paid versions that are harder to trace.
“The ban on pre-paid phones in Jammu and Kashmir has been withdrawn,” India’s state-owned television Doordarshan announced.
Militants in the Muslim-majority region of Kashmir have waged a violent uprising against rule from New Delhi for two decades.
The pre-paid mobile ban was unpopular among young people in Kashmir, who said the phones were a lifeline for courting couples wanting to avoid detection by disapproving parents or prying elders.
Kashmir’s Chief Minister Omar Abdullah welcomed the Indian government’s decision.
“The decision of lifting the ban has come as a relief to tens of thousands of subscribers” and “also thousands of young people who are engaged with this activity,” he said in a statement.
The ban had affected 3.8 million users in Kashmir.
The spokesman for state-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) telecommunications company said the ban was lifted because all the service providers now had a “reliable and stringent” system to verify all customers.
Major political and business groups also welcomed the announcement.
Abdullah urged the service providers to stick to the fresh guidelines issued for the verification of pre-paid mobile phone customers.