New Delhi: Accounts of Kashmiris on messaging service WhatsApp have begun to disappear as of Wednesday owing to their inactivity, as the internet lockdown in the region enters its fourth month.
Some Kashmiris took to social media platform Twitter and shared screenshots of people mysteriously leaving WhatsApp groups.
— Dr. Shahnawaz B. Kaloo (@DrKaloo) December 4, 2019
Asked about the matter, first reported by Buzzfeednews Thursday, a WhatsApp spokesperson told ThePrint, “To maintain security and limit data retention, WhatsApp accounts generally expire after 120 days of inactivity. When that happens, those accounts automatically exit all their WhatsApp groups.”
“People will need to be re-added to groups upon regaining access to the internet and joining WhatsApp again,” the spokesperson said.
What the Kashmiris say
Speaking to ThePrint, Dr. Shahnawaz Kaloo, who is from Kashmir but works in Delhi, said he observed people leaving WhatsApp groups Wednesday evening.
“Initially, I thought people were voluntarily leaving, but then I realised that the internet is still not functioning in Kashmir. So they cannot leave the groups by themselves,” said Kaloo.
“Then it struck me that the internet shutdown has completed four months, and I understood why this might be happening. Even the previously registered accounts are now showing an ‘invite’ option.”
The ‘invite’ option on the app sends a text to those who are not registered users on the platform.
Twitter users including Shehla Rashid also shared the issue on the microblogging site. Rashid said the accounts of Kashmiris are being removed for no fault of their own.
🛑 @WhatsApp Please pay attention to this. There is no Internet in Kashmir for the past 4 months now, and your algorithm is deleting Kashmiri Whatsapp accounts which have been inactive for over 120 days, for no fault of theirs.@evgenymorozov @zeynep @Snowden @AOC @PopTechWorks https://t.co/PbNRdVTfRi
— Shehla Rashid (@Shehla_Rashid) December 5, 2019
— Sajjad Iqbal (سجاد اقبال) (@realsajjadiqbal) December 5, 2019
Error 377. Voices not found.
— Darab Bakhshi (@DarabArzHai) December 5, 2019
Internet services in the region were snapped on the night of 4 and 5 August. The government announced the scrapping of Article 370, withdrawing special status granted to the former state of Jammu & Kashmir, on 5 August. The state was bifurcated into two union territories — Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh — on 31 October.
On Wednesday, Jammu & Kashmir Lieutenant Governor G.C. Murmu said the internet services will be restored once the situation turns “more normal”.