Believe it or not….It is not Pakistan banning Internet sites on the slightest of provocations. It is the largest “secular democracy” of the world, so scared of the power of Internet that it does not block the site; it actually prosecutes the Internet users. The authorities in India think that social networking sites could also be used as lethal weapons by insurgents or freedom fighters. Sometimes back, Pakistan banned Facebook for publishing offensive contents and invited loads of criticism but its archrival India is smarter. It would not ban the site but would apprehend and prosecute any Internet user typing Facebook in the search option. Financial Times has reported that Indian police battling to control anti-India protests in the troubled province of Kashmir are accusing Facebook users of using the social networking site to instigate civil unrest. See the power of technology!

Over the past month of clashes that left 15 people dead in the restive province, it is accused that young Kashmiris have used Facebook and YouTube to report on the events, upload images of the violence, and express their anger. Indian authorities are now threatening to prosecute Kashmiris using Facebook and other sites to spread images and ideas that they say are inflammatory.

Local human rights groups say several Kashmiri Facebook users have received phone calls from police asking about their activities and ordering them to report to the police station. As a result, many Kashmiris are now deactivating their Facebook accounts and re-registering under false names.

“So far it’s intimidation,” said Khurram Parvez, coordinator of the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society. “They are monitoring whosoever writes what.”

Kashmir, the picturesque Himalayan valley at the centre of a decades-old dispute between India and Pakistan, remained tense at the weekend. Many towns were placed under curfew after residents of the northern town of Baramulla claimed a teenage boy had drowned in a river after being chased by police following a protest. Meanwhile, hard-line factions of the separatist Hurriyat Conference have called for strikes and other protests against Indian rule through the week.

One person who asked not to be identified said he received phone calls from police after he uploaded a clip of two teenagers bleeding to death after being shot by police in Anantnag. “Indian media never shows such pictures,” said the 27-year-old social worker. “There was no mischievous intent on my part. People here already know everything…I wanted the outside world to see.”

Farrukh Faheem, a Delhi University professor visiting Anantnag, said he temporarily deactivated his account to avoid any trouble with police. “We have curfewed nights and days, and now we have a curfewed virtual world,” he said. Indian authorities have been waging an escalating battle against new communication technologies that they fear are being used to mobilize Kashmiri public opinion and organize protests against Indian rule.

Last year, New Delhi banned the use of pre-paid mobile phone cards in Kashmir , citing their potential for misuse by “terrorists,” a decision that left around 3.8m Kashmir phone users disconnected. Nationally, around 90 per cent of Indian phone users have prepaid cards, which require no monthly fee.

New Delhi’s ban on the popular services in Kashmir sparked protests and a Supreme Court challenge, forcing authorities to reverse the decision. Even still, subscribers are now subjected to verification procedures not used elsewhere. Text messaging is also banned in Kashmir. However, Facebook poses a new challenge, as it gains popularity as a forum for dissent and spreading creative ideas for civil disobedience to challenge Indian rule. “Facebook is actually becoming one of the platforms connecting Kashmiris and disseminating uncensored information,” said Mr Parvez. “We can organise a public meeting. This is the only democratic space available.”

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