NEW DELHI (AP) - Six months after India's government stripped restive Kashmir of its semi-autonomy and enforced a total communications blackout, it is heralding the restoration of limited, slow-speed internet as a step toward normalcy.
But for the Himalayan region's 7 million people, the reality is far different.
They are only allowed to access government-approved websites.
Popular social media platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter remain blocked. And while users can access YouTube and Netflix, the internet service is too slow to stream video.
Some Kashmiris are evading censors by using virtual private networks, or VPNs, which are widely employed globally to access restricted websites, but Indian authorities are looking for ways to clamp down on those, too.
"Frankly, let's call it what it is: It's still an internet shutdown and a blanket censorship of the internet," said Nikhil Pahwa, a New Delhi-based digital rights activist.
The portion of the divided Kashmir region that India controls was already one of the most militarised places in the world before the government scrapped its semi-autonomy and statehood last summer and imposed harsh curbs on civil rights and information.
Digital experts say the internet controls are particularly severe.
"The internet clampdown in Kashmir is far worse censorship than anywhere in the world. It even surpasses China's," said Pranesh Prakash, an affiliated fellow at Yale Law School's Information Society Project.
"It is a step toward demolishing democracy in India."
Since the internet ban was partially lifted on January 25, some Kashmiris have shared access to banned sites through VPNs with neighbours and friends and taken to the web to denounce the government's actions in the region.
Internet shutdowns are a favoured tactic for the government of nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Since Modi came into power in 2014, the internet has been suspended more than 365 times in India, according to the global digital rights group Access Now.
Recently, internet service was suspended in areas of New Delhi, in the eastern state of West Bengal, the northern city of Aligarh and the entire state of Assam during protests after the contentious citizenship law was passed in Parliament.
In Kashmir, internet bans have been more frequent. More than a third of India's internet bans of the last six years have imposed there, some lasting months.
For Kashmiris, the internet shutdowns are more than an inconvenience. They have a grave human cost.
During the service blackouts, critically ill patients can't access government healthcare or seek insurance reimbursements online, students can't apply for fellowships or take competitive exams and distraught families can't connect to relatives outside the region.
A successful telemedicine consultancy operated by a group of Kashmiri doctors who shared thousands of patients' medical reports with a pool of doctors in the US and Europe for their opinions on treatment had to close down.
The internet lockdown also hurt Kashmir's economy as tens of thousands of artisans became jobless when their handicrafts couldn't be sold online.
As Kashmiris rush back online, authorities have instructed commercial broadband operators to block VPNs.
Analysts say the clampdown could spearhead a new level of government control over information allowing it to crack down on freedoms in Kashmir and elsewhere in India.
"Given that this is a norm that has been established: that it is legal for the state to ask internet service providers to start filtering out most of the internet, nothing stops the government of India from doing something similar," said Pahwa, the digital rights activist.