Your Face Booked in Kashmir

Zuckerberg will surely not be happy with the lords of Kashmir. The part-time crusaders of Free Speech will choose to remain quiet on this one. Of course, they will say, Facebook is the main reason why Kashmiris want independence from India. And yes, in case you missed, this splurge in demand for freedom is a recent phenomenon which has caught popular attention only since 2004. (Facebook was launched in 2004, dumb wit).  Till then these Kashmiris were mostly tillers, or even better, living on government salaries under the blessed protection of Indian forces. But the full-time crusaders of free speech will not agree. They might argue, as they have done on previous occasions, that people have (and even if they don’t have – they should have) a right to eat what they want, and wear what they want, and hence by deduction speak what they want to. (It’s elementary, Watson!)
But Facebook is a tricky wall to climb. Here  people don’t dress the way they should. Call themselves by names which are not theirs, and then these little wicked masters, even go on to use proxy servers.Thereby giving out fake web addresses. All this is, of course, against the general spirit of public good. And more importantly goes against all the present, proposed, and future amendments to the Indian Constitution. For as strong as it may appear to be, nationalism is actually a very fragile concept. Just like a certain  kachchi kasam, it breaks with a snap. But some people will not listen. They have a way of imposing in the Indian patriotic utopia which the media and its various puppeteering agencies would like to believe in.
But is it all about free speech in Kashmir? No, its not. People have accepted a censored version of daily communication. There are things which are openly said, like abuses – for example when bus drivers scuffle in Nowhatta Chowk. But, other times even the graffiti is censored. Much like the Interlocutors’ report. But all is well when the English-speaking news-reporters say so. 2011 was written in their books as a peaceful year, as the curfew was not imposed for weeks. Notwithstanding anything that happened in 2010.

On Facebook, under masked faces, they found vent to their aspirations. But it wasn’t all that harmful in the beginning. At first they just filled in random pages with their angst. The administrators were college students or somewhat around. And when the summer of our discontent came, the page owners became lethal. They took up cyber-guns, and launched an online-army against the sovereignty of India. With their Facebook updates they not only endangered public property, but also the  lives of other vocal online activists. They committed such other crimes as telling people in Srinagar what was happening in Sopore, and telling the people of Bandipore about the protests in Baramulla. They were posting pictures of other peoples actions and that was infuriating. They were telling of the murders happening everywhere. The telling was inciting to violence, you see, in a way committing the murder wasn’t. Of course, all murder isn’t violence, especially if you call it national security and cover it under AFSPA. Then it’s national interest. The hawks on English news channels and the crows on Hindi ones retreat into their lairs and look for some issues other than silly human rights ones, leaving some idle people sitting online and a handful of journalists very hoarse. 

Dissent flows like a river, and overflows like a drain. One dangerous, and the other full of trouble. Its foolishness to assume that if you silenced people for long they will never speak. Perhaps, you have not been listening, but people have been speaking all along. And Facebook, was another figure in speech. It only gave vent, it didn’t create the sentiment. Sure, it is an odd way to fight imperialism but who is fighting whom on Facebook? The people against the government – as some would like to suppose, or people against the people – as the comments on any article on Kashmir would show?  Some had hoped that people will lose the plot after the SMS service were banned, but the story continued ever after that. Now after repeated crackdowns on Facebook, the narration is only changing, not dying. What they said on Facebook wasn’t new, it was just hard to ignore.

Author: Rich Autumns

Blogger from Kashmir. Twitter: @RichAutumns

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