Police intimidating Facebook users in Kashmir: Rights Group

Srinagar: A leading rights group in Indian Kashmir said Tuesday Facebook users were being intimidated by police for uploading images of ongoing deadly protests in the Himalayan region.Over the past six weeks the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley has been in the grip of regular anti-India demonstrations. Clashes with security forces have so far left 17 young protesters and bystanders dead.Young Kashmiris have been uploading photos and videos on social networking site Facebook and video-sharing sites like YouTube.The region’s leading rights group, Coalition of Civil Society, said some Facebook users had been asked to report to police stations as a consequence.”It is intimidation, nothing else,” said Khurram Parvez, co-ordinator of Coalition of Civil Society. “The protests by Kashmiri youth even on virtual spaces like Facebook are not being tolerated, not to speak of the fate meted out to the protesters on the streets of Kashmir,” Parvez told AFP.”The democratic space for dissent in Kashmir is choked,” he said.The crackdown is allegedly centred in southern Anantnag district where police are accused of shooting dead three young men during protests last month. Grainy and shaky images of the blood-splattered bodies were uploaded.The local police denied summoning anyone.”We have not called any Facebook user to any police station,” local police officer Showket Ahmed said.One 27-year old Kashmiri man told AFP he had deactivated his account under pressure from local police. He did not give his name out of fear of reprisals.”They (police) told us we can’t book you for using Facebook or YouTube but we can easily implicate you in other serious crimes if you don’t mend your ways,” he said.India is wary of new technology and its ability to foment protests, as was most recently shown during demonstrations in Iran last June.Footage of a young woman, Neda Agha-Soltan, being shot dead was put on YouTube which quickly turned her into a powerful and poignant symbol of the opposition movement.Last month India banned phone users from sending SMS text messages in troubled Kashmir amid fears they were being used to mobilise protests and public opinion.Kashmir is jointly administered by India and Pakistan.An insurgency against Indian rule in the region that began in 1989 has claimed an estimated 47,000 lives.


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