On April 18, the J&K Government issued an order stating that anyone looking to create WhatsApp news groups will have to first obtain a license from the state government.
Reports state that the order is applicable on the entire Kashmir Valley owing to recent disturbances in Handwara in Kupwara district of the state.
This circular doing the rounds of social media was issued by the DM of Kupwara.
The administrators of such groups will have to get themselves registered with the government authorities within the next ten days to get a license.
A circular issued by the Kashmir Divisional Commissioner, Dr Asgar Hassan Samoon, instructs users to first apply for a license to start WhatsApp news group.
The decision was taken to avoid spread of malicious rumours in the wake of tensions following the alleged molestation of a Kashmiri girl.
— Aditya Raj Kaul (@AdityaRajKaul) April 19, 2016
While locals allege that the girl was molested by an army jawan, the girl herself told a magistrate level officer that two local boys “confronted, assaulted and dragged her” outside a lavatory near a square having an army picket.
On the day of her alleged molestation, riots broke out in Handwara leading to a firing that resulted in the deaths of five people.
While the media and some voices are criticizing the government’s move in imposing restrictions on WhatsApp, the truth is that such a move might actually be of much help.
Even the Supreme Court recognises the state’s right to ban or impose restrictions on the Internet when they are faced with a law and order situation.
Rumours, often threatening in nature, start doing the rounds in sensitive areas. Kupwara shares the LoC with Pakistan.
Just 20 kilometers west of Kupwara is Muzaffarabad, the capital of what Pakistan calls ‘Azad Kashmir’ in Pak-occupied -Kashmir. Another 40 kilometers towards south west and one reaches Abbottabad, the place where US navy seals shot dead Osama bin Laden on May 2, 2012.
Kupwara’s proximity to Pakistan and the ongoing tensions might give anti-India forces in the region to circulate incitive messages on the widely used phone service.
One must note here that in the aftermath of the 2012 Assam violence between Bodos and Bengali Muslims, threatening messages against people from the northeast were circulated via SMSes and MMSes.
Attacks on them forced a mass exodus of northeastern people from other states.
The Handwara girl’s statement indicates that certain elements are trying to malign the image of the armed forces. India’s enemies might exploit such a scenario and incite the masses with false claims.