Kashmir has been a hotbed for terrorism and sponsored agitations which has given sleepless nights to the Indian security agencies. New Delhi has always been concerned over the use of the internet, especially social media and messaging apps like WhatsApp, for the recruitment and radicalisation of militants which was also substantiated by a report by the US State Department.
“Indian government officials continue to be worried over the use of the internet including social media and messaging apps like WhatsApp for terrorist recruitment and radicalisation and the fostering of inter-religious tensions,” the report said in its India section.
India’s Home Secretary and other senior government officers had met the officials from global social media organisations to explore steps to check online terrorist recruitment and radicalisation, it said.
Whatsapp groups have been very popular in the valley which was being used to mobilise stone-pelters in Kashmir to disrupt security forces’ operations at encounter sites. Even though the security forces claimed to have shut down hundreds of groups, there were still innumerable groups running which would incite people by spreading fabricated news.
With the internet blackout in Kashmir crossing 120 days, people have started disappearing from the WhatsApp group. Many users reported their concerns on social media given the current situation in the valley that has no Internet for over four months.
Many people started noticing that their Kashmiri contacts were abruptly leaving their WhatsApp groups en masse. This struck them as unusual as there is a total communication blackout in the Kashmir Valley.
The unusual disappearance was eventually attributed to the long inactivity policy of WhatsApp. Some of the users are likely to permanently lose their account data, including chat logs, images, and videos if they are not able to back up the data in 30 days from the deactivation.
Even though there is complete internet blackout in the Kashmir Valley, New Delhi will eventually have to lift communication blockade in Kashmir. However, according to security experts talking to the EurAsian Times on conditions of anonymity said – deactivation of WhatsApp accounts could be a blessing in disguise for Indian security agencies as many of these groups are notorious in spreading fake propaganda in Kashmir.
The expert further stated that Mobile data is the biggest concern. If the Indian government is able to curb the mobile data (which they could) instances of stone-pelting, fake propaganda, gathering of people at encounter sites can be dramatically curtailed.