Kupwara Killings: War On Social Media

3 mins read

Amanjeet Singh

The Social Media saw some shriller debate on the killing of Kupwara youth and the state government particularly came under fire over the incident.  This prompted the wary government to shut down the internet services

 If Delhi and Mumbai based news-channels came in for a sharp criticism for their role in handling the NIT row, the social media only added fuel to the fire by communalising the situation on the ground.

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Photo:Xuhaib Maqbool

After police restored to baton charge on non-local students, leaders from political parties especially Bharitya Janta Party (BJP) immediately extended their support to protesting students on the social networking sites.  Within hours, the NIT incident started trending on the twitter with hashtag #NITSrinagar and firing on protestors in Kupwara attracted many eyeballs.  On the networking sites, it had turned into the debate against Kashmiris versus non-Kashmiris.

 Not only were Kashmiris projected as communal, Jihadis and extremists even J&K police, which was played a key role in countering insurgency and maintenance of law and order in the state during civil unrest of 2008 and 2010, came under the heavy attack.

As NIT Students were protesting in New Delhi to press for their demand of shifting the campus and sought action against policemen for use of force against them, curfew and restrictions were imposed after the killings of five civilians in firing by army, CRPF and J&K Police.

The treatment of NIT issue and Handwara killings on the social media had made the fault lines visible.

There were comments on the Facebook and other social media that politicians from all across the nation have spoken up about the events at the National Institute of Technology (NIT) in Srinagar, but preferred to remain mum over the killings by government forces in Kashmir.

Amit Shah, President of Bhartiya Janta Party, took no time respond to police action on NIT students, while he didn’t make even a single statement on killing of five civilians.

 Rajnath Singh, Home Minister, seemed more concerned about “security of NIT students” in Kashmir when two civilians were killed in a cold blood murder by security forces, read another post.

Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti was in New Delhi on  April 12 to meet Home Minister Rajnath Singh and it was Mehbooba’s first visit to the national capital after she took oath as the state’s Chief Minister. Instant uploads were made on networking sites that in power Mehbooba has not lived up to her promises which she made while in opposition. Reports were instantly uploaded that the controversy surrounding the Srinagar NIT was also discussed in the meeting between the two leaders and that during the meeting, Rajnath Singh reportedly asked the J&K chief minister to ensure a safe and comfortable atmosphere for the students of the institute.

The urgency with which Home Minister responded to lathicharge on NIT students was missing in the case of killings of Kashmiri citizens. In a series of tweets, after police action, Home Minister conveyed that he “directing the officials to ensure safety and peace” while in case of civilian killings, nothing was said about.

The approach of the national media houses to handle the two issues also came in for a severe criticism in Kashmir. Media houses based in Delhi and Mumbai, were much concerned about the anti-India slogans which were raised in the funerals of the slain youth while killing of people by their forces was not “news” for them.

On the day when Army shot dead two youth including a promising cricketer in cold blood, Sudhir Chaudhary, Zee News Editor in his show where he claims of conducting DNA test of current happenings started with video of girl, in which she denies of molestation by any soldier. She says that a boy grabbed her bag, pulled her and abused her when she went to the washroom after school. The anchor and editor claims it was a conspiracy to defame Indian Army.

On the same channel, in another program Tal Thok Ke Journalist Judges that army has been defamed, as charges of molestation are not true. The moderator raised the question of why army has been targeted.

In an answer, leaders from National Conference and Peoples Democratic Party were not even able to say that the Indian army killed two youths in firing and they would not be booked as special laws were backing them. The anchor concluded that it was a conspiracy hatched by separatists to defame army.  The same channel covered the NIT Srinagar issue by comparing the local students with pro-Pakistan leader Masarat Alam.

NIT was purely an administrative matter, which was followed by tussle between local and police. Zee News broadcast clippings of pro-Pakistan clippings that outside NIT students have to face in the valley.  However, the protesting outstation students were saying they have no issues with the local students. No news channel found it important that statement of Hurriyat leader, Syed Ali Shah Geelani in which he called upon local population to protect the outstation students are guests. Such questions popped up on the networking sites.

The story first appeared in print edition of 20 April 2015

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