In the wake of prevailing situation in the Valley, Jammu and Kashmir government on Wednesday ordered suspension of social media in the trouble-hit region for a period of one month or till further orders are in place. According to officials, the Home Department via a order said that social media services in the Valley shall not be transmitted with immediate effect for a period of one month or till further orders.
Social networking sites including Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, QQ, WeChat, Ozone, Tumblr, Google , Baidu, Skype, Viber, Line, Snapchat, Pinterest, Telegram and Reditt have been banned.
Internet services have been banned in the state on several occasions in the past also but it is for the first time that the state home department has issued a formal order to this effect.
Officials further said that the state home department has invoked powers conferred on it under Indian Telegraph Act and Information Technology Act to take this decision. However, it was not clear whether the order affects all internet services or just the mobile internet services, which are already suspended since April 17.
"In the interest of maintenance of public order, the government hereby directs all internet service providers that any message or class of messages to or from a person or a class of persons relating to any subject or any pictorial content through the following social networking sites shall not be transmitted in Kashmir valley with immediate effect for a period of one month or till further orders, whichever is earlier," Principal Secretary (Home) R K Goyal said in the three-page order.
"On careful examination of all relevant factors, it is observed that the use of social media platforms, which are being misused by anti-national and anti-social elements by transmitting inflammatory messages in various forms are immediately required to be regulated/curbed," the order reads.
It said, "the anti-national and inimical elements largely succeed in transmitting unverified, objectionable and inflammatory material and content through the medium of these social networking sites."
It was being "felt that continued misuse of social networking sites and instant messaging services is likely to be detrimental to the interests of peace and tranquility in the state," the order said.
The department has in its order directed all internet service providers that "any message or class of messages to or from any persons or class of persons relating to any subject or any pictorial content through the following social networking sites shall not be transmitted in the Kashmir Valley".
The move comes against the backdrop of repeated student protests in Kashmir, which the authorities believe are fanned through social media.
Some days back, a police official had said that 350 WhatsApp groups were being used to spread rumours in Kashmir and the government had cracked down, shutting 90 per cent of these groups.
The mobile internet services were suspended in Kashmir on April 17, following widespread student protests in the valley against alleged highhandedness of security forces.
Reacting to the ban on the internet, former chief minister Farooq Abdullah, said that the communication blockade will play havoc with J&K’s economy and students’ future. He alleged that the PDP-BJP government is persecuting people politically and economically alike.
"The blockade would play havoc with the State’s economy and in turn rendering thousands of youth unemployed,” he asserted.
He alleged that the state government was not only suppressing the people through "brute force” but was also "persecuting” them economically.
"It will seriously affect our businesses and especially youth-oriented new start-ups in the e-commerce sector that depend primarily on internet accessibility and penetration. This will in turn lead to an increase in unemployment as the private sector especially the tourism sector will be severely hit,” he said.
"Using such measures to suppress dissent against a deeply unpopular government is as futile an exercise as that government continuing to be in power despite being rejected by the people of the State”, Abdullah added.