In Valley’s polarised battlefield, phone is weapon, video ammo

Six days after the parliamentary poll, it’s raining videos, almost one every three or four hours.

Written by Nirupama Subramanian | Srinagar | Updated: April 16, 2017 7:26 am
Kashmir violence, man tied to army jeep, army jeep video, Kashmir man tied to army jeep, Kashmir youth assault CRPF, CRPF assaulted, youth heckly CRPF, stone pelting, stone pelting Jammu, Srinagar bypoll, Srinagar violence, India news, Indian Express Video grabs showing CRPF personnel being attacked

A video of CRPF personnel being heckled and pummeled out of a village in Budgam on April 9, the day of the parliamentary election, was used widely in the national media to portray the restraint shown by the armed forces. The CRPF praised its men in the video for their discipline. The next day, as if challenging that story of restraint, another surfaced, this time showing an ITBP jawan purportedly killing a stone-pelting boy with a direct shot.

Hours later, the narrative changed again, when yet another video went viral, this time showing around 30 militants relaxing in a field together, presumed to be somewhere in south Kashmir. As national media was still digesting this new “shocking” evidence of increasing militancy in Kashmir, out came another video, this one with a Kashmiri man tied to the bonnet of an Army vehicle.

“It’s a war of videos,” said a senior J&K government official, “each trying to outdo the other in the brutality they can pin on the other side”.

Young Kashmiris armed with smart phones are the warriors in this video war. The videos notch up thousands of views the minute they are posted and shared over multiple social media platforms, such as Facebook and Whatsapp. Each post attracts thousands of outraged comments, and turns into a battlefield for polarised opinions.

Read | Kashmir valley video shows man tied to jeep, CM seeks report, Army orders probe

Six days after the parliamentary poll, it’s raining videos, almost one every three or four hours.

On Saturday, four new videos had emerged since morning — at least three purportedly showed security personnel using excessive force. In one, three soldiers have purportedly pinned a boy underneath their boots and are beating him on his back; in another, they are making a group of boys shout profanities against Pakistan; in a third, a group of boys have been tied together and being made to shout “Bharat Mata ki Jai”, and “Pakistan Murdabad”. The fourth video shows residents of a village helping CRPF personnel to leave the area, telling them not to worry.

Nobody knows for sure when these incidents happened, or where they took place. People interpret the videos depending on which side they are on, said the official, each view and counter view putting more distance between Kashmiris and the rest of the country.

In Kashmir, for instance, the video of the CRPF jawan being heckled is being viewed as a model of Kashmiri restraint.

The first words spoken in the video are from a person outside the picture frame. He’s saying in Kashmiri: “Dapus choob na khenh (Tell them not to beat him).”

Seconds later, another voice is heard: “Hathawaai (oh what a pity). Ya bechar ghareeb (Poor man)”.

Behind him, a voice is heard saying constantly: “Laayew ma (don’t beat)”.

When a youth punches the jawan’s sleeping bag, a voice is heard shouting: “Oi paagal, kya kar rehe ho (What are you doing)?”

Raja Muzaffar Bhat, a Budgam-based RTI activist, said people across India saw on their television channels only the heckling and the booing, and the jawan being kicked, but did not hear the voices behind. “No one bothered to hear these Kashmiri voices of restraint. These people could have taken away his gun, they could have lynched the soldier, but they let them go. No national channel noticed that,” said Bhat.

While some outside the Valley are praising the Army jeep video as a “lesson” to all stone pelters, in Kashmir, “the message people are drawing is that this is how the Modi government has decided to behave with Kashmiris from now on”.

Read | J&K: Shawl artisan says Army tied me to jeep, paraded me across nine villages

It is not just videos of incidents in Kashmir that get shared. Said Bhat: “Every youngster in Kashmir will have a cache of videos showing communal incidents, whether in Rajasthan, UP, Karnataka, or anywhere else in the country. The reactions we are seeing in Kashmir today are reactions to what is happening in the rest of India, which is reaching here through these videos.”

The recent lynching of Pehlu Khan, another of an old, bearded Muslim man being forced to abuse Islam, vidoes of cow vigilantism, another of BJP’s Telangana MLA T Raja Singh making a communally inciting speech; of the Muzaffarnagar riots — videos of all this and more are being constantly viewed and shared. Although some of these incidents may have happened many years ago, they represent the here and now of India for Kashmiri youth, Bhat said.

“People see these videos and think now Hindutva is sweeping across India, and it is not possible for Kashmiris to co-exist in such an atmosphere. Most of these people are not separatists, they don’t have links with Hurriyat. They are the mainstream,” he said.

“Social media is a weapon and people are using it to mobilise opinion and deepen the divide,” said Waheed Para, youth president of the People’s Democratic Party. Every Kashmiri is armed with an Android phone, he said, pointing to the six lakh connections registered when a phone company offered time-bound free SIM cards as a pointer to the scale of the challenge.

The government, on the other hand, he said, “is doing nothing on this front. Our systems are very conventional. Every hour there is a government event, but it does not get reported. You can’t put out one press release at 7 pm these days. We have to update continuously.”

But, he said, the government could hope to mobilise opinion only if it had something to offer to young Kashmiris to build a stake for themselves in the system.

The senior official said the relative anonymity of the internet had led to Kashmiri youth shifting their “war” against the government online, with militancy and religious extremism being glorified, and everything Indian, including the national media, excoriated.

“People are getting all their news only through these posts on Facebook or WhatsApp and elsewhere online, and mostly it is hatemongering,” he said.

The government has thus far reacted by suspending the mobile internet now and then. Last year, it was suspended from July 9 to November 19. It was cut off five times each in 2012, 2013 and 2014. This year, it was cut off from April 8 to April 14, with a brief break in between.

Junaid Mattoo, National Conference spokesman, said the videos reflected “reality”. “We should not worry about politicians sharing these videos on social media platforms. Instead, we need to worry that those incidents are actually happening,” Mattoo said.

“Facebook or Twitter is only a medium. The suspension of the medium is no solution, the solution is to address the problems facing Kashmir in a substantive manner. We cannot pretend that there is no outrage, that the situation will resolve itself. It will not. The situation in Kashmir is not normal, and whenever there are human rights violations, we will express our outrage on all patforms,” said Mattoo.

He tweeted on Saturday that “if we can shelve Geneva Convention in Kashmir prohibiting use of human shield, how can we invoke it in the case of Kulbhushan Jadhav”.

Shahid Chaudhary, Director, Information, who is active on Twitter, told The Indian Express that the government was considering the registration of WhatsApp groups, a move that was first tried in Kupwara last April. Chaudhary also said the government was framing a full-scale social media policy.

“WhatsApp groups are circulating rumours and speculation, and by the time a denial is put out, the damage has been done,” said Chaudhary. The senior official said with hundreds of thousands of youth active on social media, “we cannot track down each of them, we cannot stop them unless we take away the medium”.

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  1. V
    vikas
    Apr 16, 2017 at 3:55 pm
    my simple n free advice to all Kashmiris support the country u live in or live in country u support !
    Reply
    1. P
      Praveen Roy
      Apr 16, 2017 at 4:55 pm
      I support America. Will you give me money to relocate there? You cannot even give people equal opportunities so that we can earn our living by our own hard work. Go preach to someone else you ignorant moron.
      Reply
    2. S
      SubbuI
      Apr 16, 2017 at 3:09 pm
      JUST BRING MEMORIES OF KASHMIR PRE 2014 THAT IS BEFORE SAFFRON DICTA R BECAME PM AND NOW JUST AFTER 3YEARS NOW.THIS IS MODI EFFECT.BARBHAT KI NAMUNA.THE DAY KASHMIR IS DISINTEGERATED FROM INDIAN UNION BECAUSE OF MODI'S BAD POLICYS .NALAYAK NMODI WILL BE THROWN OUT BY NOT ONLY HIS OWN PARTY AND SANGH BUT ALSO BY ALL NATION LOVING INDIANS. HE IS THE SINNER AND CAN DEVER SOLVE KASHMIR PROBLEM BY ARROGANT APPROACH AND ARMY STRENGTH.HE IS GOING TO PAY UNLEES HE COME TO SENSES.KASMIR IS NOT HIS AND RSS PROPERTY FOR THESE FANATICS TO EECIDE. NOW ALL HIS FOOLISH ACTIONS REACHES PEOPLE AS FAST AS LIHTENING THIS IS INTERNET WORLD
      Reply
      1. A
        Awais
        Apr 16, 2017 at 3:04 pm
        Now u people know that why we stanis hate India .You occupy our land kashmir .people of kashmir want to Iive with stan. If some one had doubt then go to kashmir and see by himself how people of Kashmir hated Indians. INDIA is world no 1 Terrorist country .
        Reply
        1. P
          Praveen Roy
          Apr 16, 2017 at 4:59 pm
          Who told you that Kashmiris want to join your country? You are not even able to keep your own people alive. What would you do with more? You can't even get inside the border, how can you even imagine to rule over us? Stop your hatemongering and focus on keeping your people alive, you moron.
          Reply
        2. R
          Raja Muzaffar
          Apr 16, 2017 at 12:32 pm
          Please see Kashmir through a human angle...Do not have a nationalistic view ...It is a know political problem which needs political solution ...Youth in Kashmir are well versed with history and they know what all happened from 1947 onwards...How many resolutions UN p ed on Kashmir....plus the attacks on minorities muslims after 2014 has further aggrievated the problem....
          Reply
          1. S
            sushil Ahuja
            Apr 16, 2017 at 11:30 am
            सुनो सुनो सुनो सुनो सुनो सुनो सुनो सुनो सुनो सुनो सुनो दुनियावालों Why do not President, PMO,SC,HC, speak them the truth TRUTH that Allah is NON-EXISTENT, nonexistent just like Ram or any gods or ghosts. And truth prevail that Ramayana was just a mythological good story, like bible or quran....We don't need any Gods,Allah,Atma,Pramatma, ,Hari, (they all never existed among us) Unless we speak the TRUTH to our people and to the world that NoGods NoTerrorismBusiness in Mandirs,Masjids, GoldenTemples, Haridwar, VaranasiGhats...these confusion will be deliberately prevailed by people like ad,Asharam, ModiRam ,ramdev and keep power over us. 09871966707 Guitaruncle Sushil Ahuja
            Reply
            1. S
              Sheetal Pande
              Apr 16, 2017 at 10:40 am
              Just let the Kashmiris go free and learn to respect others as equals. There is no honour and dignity in occupying and oppressing another people for whom we feel no love.
              Reply
              1. A
                Adv. Mashooq Yousuf
                Apr 16, 2017 at 10:24 am
                These brutalities are taking place in Kashmir since the 19th century to which the Indian army has added fuel from 1960's. But, thanks to citezen journalism, now it comes to limelight. We have been thrashed, sla , cuted, and are being har ed at every nuke and corner of Kashmir. Voices of Kashmiri's were tormented and put in abeyance. But, now it seems, that, time has come, our patience is being rewarded. Thanks to new age of freedom of speech and expression, powered by smart phones.
                Reply
                1. I
                  Indian Nationalist
                  Apr 16, 2017 at 10:03 am
                  it is easy to write such articles sympathizing with Jihadists. Please ask these people as to who comes to their rescue when there are floods and other natural disasters? Not their masters in stan but the brave Indian security forces!
                  Reply
                  1. S
                    sushil Ahuja
                    Apr 16, 2017 at 10:30 am
                    Why does not President, PMO,SC,HC, speak them the truth TRUTH that Allah is nonexistent just like Ram. And truth prevail that Ramayana was just a mythological good story, like bible or quran.... Unless we speak the TRUTH to our people and to the world....these confusion will be deliberately prevailed by people like ad,Asharam, ModiRam ,ramdev and keep power over us. 09871966707 Guitaruncle Sushil Ahuja
                    Reply
                    1. S
                      sushil Ahuja
                      Apr 16, 2017 at 10:31 am
                      Why does not President, PMO,SC,HC, speak them the truth TRUTH that Allah is nonexistent just like Ram. And truth prevail that Ramayana was just a mythological good story, like bible or quran.... Unless we speak the TRUTH to our people and to the world....these confusion will be deliberately prevailed by people like ad,Asharam, ModiRam ,ramdev and keep power over us. 09871966707 Guitaruncle Sushil Ahuja
                      Reply
                      1. P
                        Praveen Roy
                        Apr 16, 2017 at 5:10 pm
                        Who told you that Kashmiris think that our masters are in that country? No country is our master. Our military is duty bound to help us during natural calamities because we pay our taxes just like every other state. Just because you helped us doesn't give you any right to humiliate us or to treat us less than humans. Just imagine what would have happened if you hadn't helped Kashmir during floods, not to the Kashmiris but to the rest of Indian state and people. Ever thought about if everyone was dead in Kashmir what would happen. Who would you rule over if there are no people left to rule? Stop with your hatemongering and treat everyone as equals.
                        Reply
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