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Asia

Kashmiri protesters fight on in cyberspace

There have been more anti-government demonstrations in Indian-administered Kashmir despite a curfew. The protesters have also taken their struggle to social networking internet sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

Protesters defied the curfew in Kashmir on Wednesday

Protesters defied the curfew in Kashmir on Wednesday

Sympathizers of the stone-pelters in Kashmir have taken their fight to cyberspace by launching communities on Facebook over the past two months, ever since this new wave of protests broke out.

A paramilitary trooper uses a catapult to contain protests in Srinagar

A paramilitary trooper uses a catapult to contain protests in Srinagar

Groups with names such as the 'Stone Pelters Association of Kashmir', 'All Kashmir Stone Pelters Association' and 'I'm a Kashmiri Stone Pelter' have cropped up. These so called "cyber protesters" are posting pictures, videos and updates by the minute and their fan following is increasing day by day. Supporters claim they have every right to throw stones at the security forces.

Masarat Alam Bhat, a separatist leader who some call the brains behind the ongoing protests, has called on Kashmiri youth to confront the security forces. He has posted videos on YouTube to spread awareness of the protests among interested Kashmir watchers.

Attracting youth to protests via Facebook

Altaf Mehraj, who has participated in riots, says the networking sites are helpful: "One reason is that Kashmiris are talented Facebook users. And perhaps because of the messages posted, more youth are being attracted to the protests. We want to use computers to send out a message to everyone and draw attention to the atrocities being committed against us."

Many protesters find out where to meet on the internet

Many protesters find out where to meet on the internet

Pictures of funerals, dead teenagers, sobbing women and those lying injured in hospitals have sparked off interesting debates.

The WWW is also being used to criticize the protests. A counter-community on Facebook has set up a page called 'Condemn Stone Pelters of Kashmir'. It admonishes the youths who have been turning out every morning in huge numbers on the streets of Kashmir’s towns and villages.

Since early June, the body count has mounted to over 45 and the government’s shoot-at-sight orders have done little to deter the crowds.

"Internet encourages different versions of reality"

Sajjad Lone, a moderate Kashmiri politician, who is also active on Facebook, thinks that the increased use of the internet is positive. "Kashmiri youth have been net-savvy since the advent of these networking sites. They put them to good use also. And even here it is not put to bad use. But they use it as an ultimate weapon, to express reality as people see it.

Social networking sites have become a popular space for political campaigns

Social networking sites have become a popular space for political campaigns

"So you will have different versions of reality on Facebook. And I think it is a good thing. It has given a lot space for debate, for discussion, which usually in a place like Kashmir you will not find."

The growing band of young stone-pelters in Kashmir will continue to mobilize support by posting daily news updates and brainstorming exercises, thus thwarting any attempts to silence dissent.

Author: Murali Krishnan
Editor: Thomas Baerthlein

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