India blocks SMS services in occupied Kashmir citing unrest

Occupied valley still remains under brutal military curfew and cut off from the internet

Relatives of detained Kashmiri political leader Farooq Abdullah Kashmir and chief minister Omar Abdullah were arrested after staging a protest in Srinagar calling for their release. Photo: AFP

SRINAGAR: Text messaging services were blocked in Indian-occupied Kashmir just hours after being restored when a truck driver was killed by suspected militants and his vehicle set ablaze, authorities said Tuesday.

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 occupied Kashmir Valley -- the main hotbed of resistance to Indian rule -- are still cut off from the internet, however.

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 occupied Kashmir´s autonomy.

Indian authorities say that militants 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.