Monday, July 4, 2016

Separatists use social media to counter curbs | The Asian Age

Separatists use social media to counter curbs | The Asian Age: A Kashmiri saying goes �As the fisherman casts a net the fish discover how to jump over it�. ...

'Hanzan wahroav zaal, gadav heche wott'a'

A Kashmiri saying goes ‘As the fisherman casts a net the fish discover how to jump over it’. Ostensibly taking cue from it, key Kashmiri separatist leaders, who often face official curbs such as transitory or drawn out house arrests or incarceration in police stations and other detention centres depending on urgency of situation on the ground, take to the Internet to reach out the people with their messages. Facebook and are largely used by them to spread their word.       

Mufti Muhammad Sayeed flaunted one-liners like, “Democracy is battle of ideas”, and “bandook se na goli se, baat bane gi boli se” (Neither through the gun nor the bullet, the matter will have to be resolved through dialogue) and promised Kashmiri separatists a political space to vent their spleen. His daughter Mehbooba Mufti pledged to carry the legacy forward when she stepped in his shoes and became the first woman chief minister of restive Himalayan state earlier this year.

But soon deviating from its ‘Democracy is battle of ideas’ promise, the PDP-BJP government began a crackdown on select key separatists leaders including Muhammad Yasin Malik and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq. Omar Abdullah, a former Chief Minister and leader of opposition National Conference (NC), accused Ms. Mufti of personally and directly supervising the selective crackdown on separatist. “The same Mehbooba Mufti who advocated political engagement and dialogue with Hurriyat leaders is now supervising a selective crackdown on those separatist leaders who are more open and stinging in their criticism of her policies and U-turns,” he alleged. He also said, “It was PDP that assured the separatists a ‘Battle of
Ideas’ where they would be free to advocate their views in a democratic and free manner. Today she has gone from that self-righteous moral pedestal to the role of personally directing arrests and using almost three decade old cases to send separatist leaders to jail”.

While in confinement, these leaders or their aides on their behalf take to social networking sites like Facebook and to counter act the official curbs and reach out to the people and deliver messages. 

They also use the Internet to send their statements and other petitions to the world leaders like the US President, Barack Obama, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the United Nations Military Observers Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) and various human rights groups and, both at home and abroad, prominent political parties and, of course, journalists and media organisations.

As the government tightened restrictions on the Mirwaiz, Kashmir’s chief Muslim cleric and chairman of his faction of separatist Hurriyat Conference alliance earlier this month, he took to micro-blogging site to complain “Barred again by "champions of democracy" from offering Friday prayers. Force, intimidation and coercion policy of the state”. In another tweet, he announced “Govt can’t scuttle our voice by arrests & detentions. Hurriyat will continue to oppose anti Kashmir policies & designs.” While
under house arrest at his Srinagar residence, the Mirwaiz in yet another tweet asked people to reach the City’s historic Grand Mosque for holding protests. He said, “Not allowed to offer Friday prayers at Jama Masjid today. Detentions, house arrests won't frighten us...protests at Jama Masjid today”. Yet another tweet from him said, “After caging all the pro- freedom leadership in the name of ‘peace’, PDP-BJP govt of Mehbooba Mufti now trying to gag media as well. What a shame!

The Mirwaiz who is among Kashmir’s new generation of Internet savvy politicians who have taken their political struggle to cyberspace uses to draw the world’s attention towards what he alleges is the “serious” human rights situation in the  State and to reiterate the demand of self-determination for its people. Reads one of his recent tweets, “Reject BJP @nsitharaman statement "Kashmiris not a party". Even if India-Pakistan reach
agreement-won't be acceptable to us unless Kashmiris are on board.”

Yasin Malik is also on but he usually uses Facebook to deliver his messages. Mr. Malik, who is the chairman of pro-independence Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), has faced frequent detentions by police in past couple of months amid his pro-active efforts to strike ‘issue-based unity’ in the separatist camp. Last week, he was taken into custody by police while on way to the residence of senior separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani who himself is under house arrest for past several months. He was subsequently sent to Srinagar Central Jail but the JKLF was quick to place his message on Facebook, “Now the shamelessness of so-called rulers has touched a new low as they have chosen to ban even personal meeting between two people. By imposing ban on mutual meetings, so-called saffronised rulers have expressed their animosity against democratic and civilized behaviours,” the message read.

He also said that the move to prevent him from meeting the 
octogenarian leader “proves it beyond any doubt how much the rulers and other authorities fear the unity among resistance leaders”. Mr. Malik announced “these oppressive measures can’t deter us from pursuing the path of truth and freedom and history bears witness to the fact that tolerating these atrocities and bans has been our way of life from past many years.”
Several other separatist leaders like Islamic Students League chief Shakeel Bakshi also spend hours in blogging, responding to online users and updating their Facebook pages or tweet. They maintain the Internet has been an effective tool in both updating Kashmiris home and abroad about the situation in the State and spreading their word especially when under house arrest or facing other official curbs.
Some of the separatist parties have their own Facebook pages and websites which are updated regularly. 

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