India gags social media
Nazia Nazar
12/20/2012

 

Recently, the state authorities in Indian Occupied Kashmir blocked the access to social media websites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube in the valley. The authorities slowed down broadband speed to the minimum to render these sites inaccessible on a broadband connection, especially through mobile phones.

The authorities termed it a measure to ensure maintenance of law and order in the Valley, but it appeared that the real aim was to deny to the general public in IOK the right of expression especially the youth in IOK who have been using social media websites to expose Indian oppressive policies and ongoing human right violations in IOK. Nevertheless, Indian control over social media is so strong that on the demise of Bal Thackeray a girl commented on certain blogs that mourning processions blocked the routes that caused tremendous inconvenience to the general public. The comment was liked and supported by another girl on the internet.

One can imagine about the vigilance of Indian Law Enforcing Agencies over internet and social media that local police in Mumbai arrested both the girls. However, media demanded of the Judiciary to intervene, and as a result both girls were freed. In IOK, the social media monitoring is more thorough and far-reaching by design to keep a constant check on the thought process and ideas of people who are determined to rid the Indian yoke. The Jammu and Kashmir government has increasingly used a communication blackout to prevent unrest in the valley, but this time it was done in the name of anti-Islam film so that it did not fuel the passions. Kashmiris said that the state government was using the anti-Islam film as a pretext to curb their freedom of speech by restricting access to popular websites. “Personally, I think it’s a gag on communication,” said a teenage college student who requested his name not be disclosed because he feared retaliation from the government.

Kashmiris expressed frustration over the blocking of YouTube and Facebook also for reasons other than free speech and activism. Businessmen, for instance, said these two sites had become integral to their branding and communication strategy. But internet and social media has many more uses. The students of University of Kashmir in Srinagar launched a signature campaign seeking release of a fellow student who has been in jail for the last seven years. Mohammad Rafiq Shah, a university student, was arrested in 2005 for his alleged involvement in pre-Diwali blasts that took place in New Delhi. However, despite all evidence confirming his innocence, he is still languishing in jail in New Delhi. The petition has been put on website ‘www.change.org’ the largest platform for submitting petition online. This is the first time that a family of arrested person from IOK has used internet to campaign the release of the student. Indian authorities and law enforcing agencies are firm on gagging the social media to avoid ignominy.

On 16 November 2012, the Jammu and Kashmir High Court while dismissing petition of Muslim League Chairman Dr. Muhammad Qasim Faktoo for release after 20 years of imprisonment gave a ruling that life imprisonment means imprisonment for entire life. Against all legal norms, Dr. Faktoo, who was first detained in 1993 under PSA and later sentenced to life imprisonment in a fake murder case was subjected to political vendetta as in 2008, Kashmir High Court itself passed a judgment of releasing Dr. Qasim, after completion of 20 years imprisonment.

The court decision seems to be part of larger Indian machination to suppress the Kashmiri leaders who raise their voice against Indian occupation. Judicial System in IOK seems totally blind to civil rights of people which have been grossly violated by security forces and government functionaries to keep the people of IOK suppressed. People in IOK irrespective of their faith feel that Indian atrocities against innocent Kashmiris have become unbearable; but Indian government is blocking the venues whereby they can vent out their feelings and sentiments.

Frustrated by the apathy of the international community and non-implementation of United Nations Security Council resolutions, Kashmiri youth had taken up the arms in 1989. However after 9/11, political landscape of the world changed dramatically and now those waging struggle for their rights are dubbed as terrorists. Nevertheless, writers, intellectuals and peace loving people condemned India’s repression on people of Kashmir and also for treating them as second class citizens.

European Parliament has many a time passed resolutions emphasizing the need for resolving the Kashmir dispute, and often highlighted brutalities perpetrated by Indian military in Indian Held Kashmir. On 10th July 2008, European Parliament had passed a resolution, calling upon the Government of India to hold an impartial inquiry into the unidentified mass graves discovered in the disputed state of Jammu & Kashmir. It is happening in twenty-first century when thousands of Human rights organizations, philanthropic NGOs, and most importantly, United Nations exist in this world. Isn’t it a mockery and travesty of justice?