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Crackdown On E-Protestors :Terrified, Facebook Users Leave Valley

By Danish Nabi

13 July, 2010
Kashmir Times

SRINAGAR, July 12: Next time you wish to register your protest against the ongoing political crisis in the valley on social networking sites, make sure you exercise utmost restraint; else you would find yourself behind bars.

In a bid to strangulate the voices of dissent emanating from social networking site - Facebook, the state police has started crackdown on internet users of south Kashmir for posting "anti-national" remarks on Facebook.

According to unconfirmed reports, police summoned many a Facebook user in south Kashmir's Anantnag district and threatened them of dire consequences. Anticipating trouble, many Facebook users have run out of the valley.

Pertinently, the police action followed the uploading of videos by the Facebook users about the killings of three youth in the district.

A Facebook user from Anantnag who spoke to Kashmir Times on the condition of anonymity said he was summoned to the police station by a senior police official day before yesterday "for actively using the Facebook."

"A senior police official telephoned me late in the evening. He began his conversation saying kya saab ap aj bade chaye huwe ho Facebook pe (Sir, you are quite active on Facebook these days!). Then he told me to make myself available at the police station on the following morning for an FIR had been registered against me," the user said.
The user, however, didn't follow the officer's direction, which prompted police to make another call to him.

"This time it was the local Station House Officer (SHO) who called me up and summoned me to the police station. But I again avoided it," he said.

The user, who has already deactivated his Facebook account, is now leaving the Valley to avoid the worse. He was on his way to Jammu while giving the details on telephone.

"I was again called by police this morning and they told me that making hue and cry in media won't help. They said that I was required by police on the charge of setting a police station on fire and damaging several police vehicles, not for using the Facebook. When I revealed that I was on my way to Jammu and can't report to the police station, they asked me to clear my stand at the nearest police Chowki," he said, confirming that he was leaving the Valley precisely due to "harassment by police."

Facebook has given a platform to Kashmiris, particularly the youth, to vent their pent up anger. The Facebook users, who were confined to their homes due to curfews, were frequently registering their protest on the social networking site.

The state police, however, initiated action against the e-protesters when Mirwaiz South Kashmir, Qazi Yasir, was booked under Public Safety Act (PSA) against charges of "inciting violence through Facebook". But the recent crackdown against Facebook users in Anantnag has made the youths cautious.

When contacted, senior superintendent of police (SSP) Anantnag told Kashmir Times that he had no knowledge about anyone being summoned to the police station for posting comments on Facebook.

"I don't know who has spread this rumour. Summoning someone for some act is a different thing, but I don't know about anyone being summoned for using Facebook," he said.

Several Facebook users from the district said they have deactivated their accounts after learning about the police action.

"If users in Anantnag are summoned we all may have to face the police action. So we have decided to quit Facebook," said Imaran Ahmad, a Facebook user from Srinagar.
He said many of his friends, who had been active on Facebook during last week, have turned passive.
"They are all scared," he said.

Some users of the social networking site fear that the intelligence agencies might be keeping watch on them through fake Facebook accounts.

"I have been receiving friend requests from several users whom I don't know. And most of them are from the girls. I fear they might be the fake accounts being run by intelligence agencies to keep a watch on our posts," said Gowhar Ahmad, another user.