This town is new destination for internet users in J&K

This town is new destination for internet users in J&K

Representative image. (AFP Photo)

With internet services in Kashmir valley remaining snapped for the last five months, this mountainous town along Srinagar-Jammu national highway has emerged as a new destination for those who want to avail the service.
 
Banihal, 110 kms from Srinagar, is not only connected with Kashmir valley through NH1A, but also by train. The train service from Baramulla in north Kashmir to Banihal in Jammu region remained suspended for over three months post abrogation of J&K’s special status under Article 370 on August 5. 
 
However, after the resumption of the train service in mid-November, people in the Valley found a new destination to access the Internet. The highway town, having less than 4000 population, has six internet cafes and their business is booming these days due to internet gag in the Valley. Banihal, a two-hour train ride from Srinagar, is the nearest town with any internet access.
 
"Internet cafes and telecom service providers in Banihal are doing good business these days, as there is heavy rush from the valley. This has also resulted in our business picking up," Omar, who runs a dhaba, in the town, told DH.
 
The first train from Kashmir arrives in the town at 10:15 am and the last train departs at 3:15 pm. "Most of the people finish their work during the daytime and go back in the evening. However, some stay for a day or two. Winter usually remains a lean period for our business but this time it has been good," he added.
 
Bilal Bhat, who owns one of the cafes in the town, said initially internet speed was a problem but now it has improved. "Hundreds of Kashmiris, mostly students, employment seekers, businessmen and income tax professionals, come visiting every day. Earlier, a few people would visit, but since the train service resumed the rush has increased manifold," he added.
 
Shakeel Ahmad, a student from Srinagar, who wanted to register for exams to gain access to a graduate engineering course, said he had been staying in the town for the last two days. "On the first day, I couldn’t finish the work on time and had to stay for a night. Now I am done, but the last train has already left, and I have no option but to stay for another night," he said.
 
Ahmad complained that not only internet cafes, but restaurant and hotel owners were overcharging people coming from Kashmir. "But we have no option as the government has snapped internet in Kashmir," he added.
 
Muzafar Shah, a contractor from Anantnag, said he visited the town and utilized the internet service to file GST returns besides converted his prepaid mobile SIM card to postpaid.
 
The internet services continue to remain barred in the Valley except for some government offices, hospitals, and business establishments since August 5 last year, the day the Centre announced abrogation of Article 370 provisions and bifurcation of the erstwhile state into two union territories.

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