India: From Stone Pelting In Kashmir Streets To Facebook Protests


The beautiful Kashmir Region is marred with territorial conflicts between India, Pakistan and China since the British colonial rulers left India in 1947. Amidst a few wars all these countries have made claims to different parts of Kashmir, based on historical developments and religious affiliations of the Kashmiri people.

The Jammu and Kashmir region is administered by India but enjoys special autonomy under Article 370 of the Constitution of India. It is also the only Indian state that has its own flag. Since the late 1980s a violent uprising backed by Pakistan has caused a prolonged, bloody conflict between militants and the Indian security forces in this region. The Indian Army in Jammu and Kashmir has been given special powers via Armed Forces Act, which has been widely criticized.

Kashmir is boiling over tension and rage since early June when it was revealed that Indian security forces allegedly killed three innocent boys and claimed they were militants. Violent protests ensued which brought part of the region in standstill and hundreds of Kashmiri youths were arrested. Jason Oberdorf at Global Post explains the recent volatile situation in Jammu and Kashmir:

Late Tuesday (July 6, 2010) night, New Delhi deployed the army to quell protests in Kashmir for the first time since 1990, after police bullets allegedly killed three more civilians, bringing the total for the month to 15. [..]

Facebook and other social networking sites are brimming with outpourings of rage, bordering on hatred for India's security forces, from Kashmiri youth.

Reading reports about Kashmir may get tricky depending on the source. While a Pakistani media would interpret the stone pelting protests with headlines such as “Kashmir shuts down protesting Indian occupation: Want freedom, Pakistan“, an Indian media would label the stone pelting as provocations by anti-national elements. There are reports that the Indian media may be allegedly fabricating blames.

Apart from tackling the stone throwing protesters the Indian military now faces a new form of insurgency. Protesters are increasingly using social media tools like Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, hi5, Orkut and Kashmir Friend, which is a social network dedicated to the people of Kashmir. Simantik Dowerah at Live Mint reports that “there are actually groups of Kashmiri stone throwers who have registered themselves on Facebook.” The Kashmir reports with screenshots how the youths are being instigated by sharing Jihadi videos.

As the violence escalated, the Jammu and Kashmir Government banned the SMS service across the valley in an attempt to stop the flow of information and rumors. But the Kashmiris could breathe free, stay connected and share information via Facebook as Hindustan Times reported. Many news websites like Kashmir Dispatch and Kashmir are using Facebook to reach netizens.

Amidst all this there are reports that Facebook users are being screened by Police. The Daily Rising Kashmir reports that the authorities have now started scrutinizing Facebook users in South Kashmir's Anantnag (previously Islamabad) district who they claim are ‘instigating' people against the state.

Sagar From Srinagar writes in protest in his blog “Tragedy Of Errors: My Kashmir”, which sums up the pain of the Kashmiris:

I protest for the incompetency of the people handling my future, I protest for the lack of humanity in our (in)security forces, I Protest for the repeated insults, I protest for media using my pain for their TRPs, I protest for the short sightedness of all our leaders, I protest for none of them coming out submissively and asking for forgiveness, I protest for being ordered to be locked up in my house for no fault of mine, I protest for anyone, but never a Kashmiri, getting his 5 minutes of fame on tv, I protest for the unnecessary and insensitive comments made about my place, I protest for journalists telling the world just one side of the story…

Being Cynical at Desicritics blames the policies and politics as a reason for the protests:

Traditionally Kashmiris feel alienated- thanks to our policies and our politician's attitude to keep the Kashmir topic alive for their own gain. If you look at the video footage, it is really disturbing to see teenagers barely in their twenties are hurling stones at the security forces. On a micro analysis you would realize that these are the same guys who would have born when Kashmir was at peak of it's boiling point and their whole life till now has gone through violence, atrocities, negligence, no governance and of course the terrorists. [..]

I am sure the majority of these teenagers who are seen protesting violently might not be knowing for what they are protesting or on whom they are pelting stones.

Some analysts are labeling these protests as the ‘new Intifada'. Arjimand Hussain Talib at Dateline Srinagar opines about the protests of Kashmiri youths:

Their movement will not die down because this generation is dynamic – stretches across the globe. It has technology at its hand – Internet, mobiles phones, digital cameras, You Tube, Facebook, etc. They are archiving Kashmir’s current happenings for the next generation. And are disseminating that to the world beyond to catch attention.

There are reports that the local government is trying to control the flow of information by shutting down publications and confiscating newspapers prior to distribution. Journalists are being barred from reporting on demonstrations. The world will rely on Facebook and Twitter users for first hand reports from the region. But after the SMS ban will the Jammu and Kashmir government crack down on Social networks too?

Source: Global Voice