What remained a continuous trend in 2017 on social media concerning Kashmir issue was the circulation of content—pictures, videos and audio messages of militants to garner public sympathy and support for ‘Kashmir movement’.
Militants and their supporters—known by Over Ground Workers (OGWs) virtually used the cyberspace for propagating militant messages, the strategy which was the brainchild of Burhan Wani, the Hizbul Mujahideen commander who was killed on July 08 in 2016.
Although the level of circulation of such material by militants remained minimal in the later part of 2017, however, such content continues to appear on cyber space and invites large viewership in Valley.
The content mostly is circulated by militants of Hizb Mujahideen outfit while LeT militants also used the space occasionally. However, Jaish—an architect of fidayeen philosophy which managed to regroup the outfit’s presence in 2017 after forces killed many of its top leaders in Kashmir, rarely use social media like other outfits.
In 2017, police also woke up to launch a battle against what it calls “negative propaganda” which is being circulated on social media.
Police have established media cells in all districts of Valley.
“For some time, elements inimical to peace are using social media to foment the trouble in the Valley and lure the innocent youth to join militant ranks. In order to counter the negative propaganda, media cells have been opened in all district headquarters,” reads New Year message-2008, the book which was launched on 31 December 2017 by director general of police (DGP), Shesh Paul Vaid.
The book titled “Saga of Courage and Sacrifice” highlights various achievements—from fighting militancy to youth development endeavors by police in Jammu and Kashmir.
Such police media cells are functioning under the supervision of gazetted officers who have the task to highlight the achievements particularly police’s people friendly measures, police officials say, adding: “Facebook pages and Twitter accounts have been opened at all districts and also on RPHQ, ZPHQ and police headquarter level.”
“The propagation of correct information and highlighting the good work has gone a long way to showcase police work for the people of the state and country,” the book reads.
However, despite these police media cells videos of militants continue to circulate on the digital space.
The latest video which has gone viral on Facebook and WhatsApp groups in Kashmir is of a 16-year-old militant Fardeen Ahmad Khanday of Nazneenpora Tral—the hometown of Burhan Wani. Khanday joined militancy some three months back and was killed in Lethpora encounter in Awantipora, South Kashmir after he and his two other associates mounted a fidayeen (suicide) attack on the CRPF camp in the area.
They carried out the attack after breaching the under construction security wall from the rear side.
Khanday’s video, purportedly recorded before he was killed, has sent shock waves in Kashmir.
“When you will hear this message, I will be a guest in Allah’s paradise,” Fardeen said in a 7.41 minute video. He had made the statement with rifles and arms around him inside a room — the location of which remains unknown.
The teenage militant talks of alleged injustices and praises Jaish militants, who carried out an audacious attack on forces in Kashmir.
“They are shedding tears on our unemployment and saying that it is because of unemployment that boys are joining the ranks of militants. This doesn’t serve more than a mere propaganda,” he said in the video.
Social media is also used by Kashmiri militants to announce their joining of militancy as it has been observed in many cases when their pictures—holding guns and army uniform—appeared on social media after the youth went missing from their homes.
On the other side, police not only uses the same medium to address civic issues like drug menace and traffic management also tries “to wean away youth from militancy”.
Recently, several families made video appeals to their sons to shun path of violence and some video appeals were shared widely on social media by people and police.
Nearly, as per reporters 10 youth have shunned militancy and the announcement comes first on social media. Among ten youth, three just came back on Monday and police usually makes such announcements on Twitter.
“Another 3 young boys in the Valley came back home in response to the call of their families. God bless them,” DGP Vaid wrote on Twitter.
However, police has not been revealing the identity of those returnees due to “safety and security reasons”.