Srinagar: The Jammu and Kashmir Police has been tasked with tracking social media content and identifying users who could instigate people to cause trouble as the Narendra Modi government faces criticism after changing the domicile rules.
Once identified, action will be taken against them, including arrests, said senior police officials.
“We are analysing content at the moment. There will be action on social media content considered to be serious in nature. Action will depend (on a) case-to-case basis and not on people in general. We are studying social media and it might take time, but action will be initiated against those who instigate,” Vijay Kumar, Inspector General of Police (Kashmir division) told ThePrint.
The new domicile laws, announced this week, allows non-residents to get J&K domicile certificate and apply for government jobs in the union territory. Earlier, under J&K’s special status, which was scrapped by the Centre last August, non-residents were barred from applying for government jobs and buying property in the region.
The Modi government has been facing criticism from regional political leaders as well as people from the Jammu region, where a large chunk of the population had not principally opposed the scrapping of Article 370 that granted a special status to the erstwhile state.
Lockdown limits channels of protest
Speaking to ThePrint, senior J&K National Panthers Party leader and former minister Harsh Dev Singh said, “The youth is angry at this decision and are demanding the government roll back the domicile law immediately. The youth want to protest this move but the lockdown has stopped them.”
The hashtag #WhyJammusuffers surfaced on Twitter as people used it in posts voicing their opinion on the new law. It has been used in the past to voice other grievances and/or demands, including asking for high speed internet after internet connectivity was shut in the region in the aftermath of Article 370 being scrapped.
Is everyone a suspect?
IGP Kumar assured that legal action will be taken only against those instigating others and not people in general. There is, however, no clarity on the criteria being used to determine which social media posts will be investigated and which won’t.
“Sweeping statements such as action will be taken against those provoking others on the issue of domicile law makes all of us suspects and vulnerable. If a law has been introduced and someone chooses to voice their displeasure against the law without adopting violent modes, isn’t that his or her democratic right?” Jammu-based political analyst and The Dipatch editor Zafar Choudhary asked.
“I don’t know the technicalities police will use to book people but from what I understand is that everyone is a suspect. If the IGP says something to this effect, at the police station level who will gauge the social media content, whether it is instigating masses? People will be suspects simply for writing against the law,” Choudhary added.
It is for the “first time ever” that youth from Jammu and Kashmir are speaking out in a unified voice, he went on to say.
“The hyphen between Jammu and Kashmir seems to have been removed. There have always been competitive narratives between Jammu and Kashmir but that is not the case now. A local newspaper, in its report a few days ago, stated that hundreds of youth from Jammu called in their offices and asked the paper to register their protest given that they can’t take to the streets due to Covid-19 lockdown. Generally, people in Kashmir would ask for autonomy and other things that were opposed by people in Jammu. But this time around, the reaction of both people, especially the youth, is same and in fact more profound in Jammu,” Choudhary added.
This isn’t the first time J&K Police is surveilling social media for trouble-makers. In the first week of March, the police put out an advertisement in local newspapers asking people to send screenshots of individuals sharing “inflammatory terror or violence-loaded” posts on social media. It said it was a measure to keep track of people using social media to propagate militant ideologies.