India blocks SMS services in Kashmir after trucker is killed by suspected militants

Kashmir youth busy with mobile phones after government authorities lifted the ban on postpaid mobile phones in Kashmir valley, in Srinagar on Oct 14, 2019. Text messaging services were blocked just hours after being restored. PHOTO: BILAL FATIMA

SRINAGAR, INDIA (AFP) - Text messaging services were blocked in Indian-administered Kashmir just hours after being restored when a truck driver was killed by suspected militants and his vehicle set ablaze, the authorities said on Tuesday (Oct 15).

Security sources said the decision to cut text services was taken to reduce the ability of militants to communicate.

Indian authorities had only restored call and text services for mobile phones on Monday, following a 72-day blackout in the restive northern territory imposed after New Delhi scrapped the region's semi-autonomous status.

The seven million-plus people of the Kashmir Valley - the main hotbed of resistance to Indian rule - are still cut off from the Internet, however.

The authorities said SMS services were cut on Monday night, following the attack on the driver of a truck carrying apples in Shopian.

Residents said two masked gunmen told the driver to move his vehicle because it was blocking the road, but it skidded and got stuck.

"The gunmen then fired at the truck and set it on fire," a witness told AFP.

Apples are a sensitive issue in Kashmir, which exports vast quantities of the fruit to markets across India.

Many orchard owners say they are refusing to harvest this year to protest against the government's move to scrap Kashmir's autonomy.

Indian authorities say that militants - backed by arch-rival Pakistan - have been intimidating farmers and businessmen.

Separately on Tuesday, officers arrested half a dozen women activists protesting in Srinagar.

They included the sister and daughter of former chief minister Farooq Abdullah, one of several hundred local politicians, lawyers and others in custody since early August, mostly without charge.

Rebels have been fighting for three decades some 500,000 Indian soldiers deployed in the territory, demanding independence or to join Pakistan which also controls part of the region, and, like India, claims it in full.

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