The government of the Indian-administered territory of Kashmir, amid frequent internet blackouts, is reportedly considering banning social media sites for 6 months, allegedly to stop the dissemination of videos and pictures purportedly showing acts of brutalities by its military forces.
Citing unnamed sources within the territory’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP), the Kashmir Reader reports, “the government is deliberating on the idea to ban social media altogether.”
“There have been suggestions made that the use of online networks like Facebook, WhatsApp and Youtube should be banned, rather than snapping [off the] Internet intermittently in” Indian-controlled Kashmir, revealed the source, noting that the social media sites are likely to be outlawed for the next six months of summer.
The Kashmir Observer notes that the Muslim-majority Himalayan region of Kashmir already outlawed 4G and 3G internet services this week, only allowing the use of broadband and 2G.
“Shutting the internet every time is embarrassing. But we are thinking of banning Facebook and WhatsApp. They are more dangerous than militants and unruly mobs on the streets,” declared an unnamed top police official, according to the Observer. “Since a long time, we have been asking the state government to block some sites, including Facebook, to stop spread of rumors.”
The Observer adds that the internet ban, which is reportedly common in the region, comes on the heels of student protests in response to a police raid on a Kashmiri college.
Hundreds of “protesting students took to streets and clashed with the government forces over alleged police brutality in a Pulwama Degree College on April 15,” notes the Kashmir Observer.
Live videos of the protests flooded social media sites like Facebook, prompting government officials to call for the ban on sites.
“This is the third time the state government has stopped internet services in the last two weeks,” reports the Kashmir Observer. “Authorities had even snapped broadband service last week ahead of bypolls to the Srinagar parliamentary constituency, but it was restored after a two-day gap.”
“On the midnight of 8 April, a few hours before polling, authorities pulled the plug on all internet services” the newspaper added. “This was done to clamp down on rumor mongering and anti-poll campaign by separatist sympathizers, who say elections under Indian control is an attempt to subvert their movement for self-determination.”
Kashmir’s Indian territory is officially known as the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Neighboring India, Pakistan, and China all have competing claims to the volatile Kashmir region.
Jammu and Kashmir’s Muslim-majority residents reportedly favor independence from India or a merger with Pakistan.
India has repeatedly accused Pakistan of backing Islamic terrorists in Kashmir who are fighting for independence from India or for becoming part of Pakistan, a charge that Islamabad denies.
Meanwhile, Pakistan accuses India of human rights violations, namely cracking down on dissent in Jammu and Kashmir.
The internet gag resulted in an unprecedented drop in parliamentary election voter turnout — “an all-time low of little over 7 percent,” notes the Observer.
Violence also reportedly erupted following the internet ban, leaving at least eight people dead.
“Mobile Internet has been cut in Kashmir multiple times,” reports the Observer. “The longest internet shutdown was for about 6 months from July to January, although mobile internet services on postpaid were restored a little earlier in November 2016.”
The Kashmir Reader adds that the internet was shut down at least 10 times last year alone.