How twin districts of Pulwama and Shopian became hotspots of anti-India activities in Kashmir – tweet by Sajjad Hussain . Location of login -Pak Army HQ Rawalpindi ! #LOLTweets #LolPakPakTweet
In the age of the Internet which has revolutionized every sector in the world from communication to business. It is tool that engages public at a larger scale. Our neighboring country, Pakistan is doing all efforts to spoil the future of youth of Kashmir and is also using fake social media handles to keep the pot boil. A week ago after security forces eliminated top terrorist commander in Shopian in South Kashmir. As soon as the internet was restored, following a gunfight, the first post that I saw on Twitter was posted by some Pakistan based fake social media handles, ‘What’s wrong with Shopian and Pulwama’, and I was curious to answer but kept patience. Before going to any conclusion, people should also understand the dynamics and geographical locations of these twin districts of south Kashmir. After 2004, militancy in Shopian was its lowest and only a few terrorists of ‘Jaish-e- Muhammad cadre, were active because of huge damage to Hizbul Mujahideen in Operation ‘Chanakya, it was known as Kashmir’s Tora Bora’. Similarly is the case with Pulwama, it was also a peaceful district until 2005-06 and soon after that, it became the most militant prone district in the valley. Introduction of mobile networks in Valley, majority of the areas in Pulwama and Shopian depended upon Public Call Centres (PCOs) for communication with relatives, kins , and outer world. The development became a threat to terrorists in the area and often they blew up telephones lines and mini exchanges because of fear of being spied upon and transmission of information to security agencies. In 2008, advancements in telecommunication and introduction of mobile networks and internet in Kashmir opened new paths of communication. In the same year, Amarnath Land Row was engineered by anti-national elements and that infused a sense of agitation against India. Mostly Pakistan sponsored elements used their propaganda through different levels to the low moral standard of the country. At that time the only a selective number of people had access to social media, due to non- awareness about social media platforms. In 2011, BSNL introduced 3G services in the valley, but due to the high plan costs, the internet remained a luxury and was therefore accessed by a selective lot. Coming to question, how Pakistan played its propagandas through social media and started working on finding a source of their narrative to reach out to Kashmiri youth. Social media was an optimal platform that could enhance any message’s reach, timeliness, and targeting. They used this opportunity and began spreading their narrative.That time also Directorate of Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) of Pakistani Army started penetrating radicalising material through social media to large masses, mainly young lot, including the lectures by Anwar al Awlaki, Maulana Masood Azhar who are the masterminds of terrorism operations. After losing their ground in Kashmir, the new age militancy began to revive its roots and Hizbul Mujahideen initiated the issue and started their networking of Over Ground Workers (OGW’s). While as Burhan Wani had started networking in Pulwama district, two young men from Shopian district, Waseem Malla and Arshid Sheikh also started networking and raising new lot OGW’s and sympathizers for funding. Soon they were neutralized by the security agencies in 2016-17. As most of the borders were seized and infiltration was restricted by security agencies and due to which no ammunition was directly reaching the valley. The radicalized youth began to strike police posts guarding Kashmiri Pandits in several localities, looting service rifles, and other material. At the same time, portraits of youth along with stolen ammonization were used to propagate their negative agenda on social media. The move gave a boost to terrorist recruitment. The more damage was done cheap availability of mobile phone gadgets and affordable internet plans in the valley. Pakistani based social media handles were targeting youth by using Burhan group’s photographs, brandishing their assault rifles and donning camouflage, the sight of which appeared to be heroic and inspiring for the common youngsters, mainly in south Kashmir. Among the group of eleven terrorists in that viral photograph, most of them were from twin districts of Pulwama and Shopian. South Kashmir was a feasible place for new age violence and militancy because some of the security forces units were shifted to dominate the North Kashmir area, which was witnessing continuous foreign terrorist infiltration. The wide use of social media platforms not only provided reach and reliability to the violent, anti-India narrative of Pakistan but enhanced the resonance of the narrative as well. On an average, a Kashmiri youngsters sees at least 30 images of dead or active terrorist on his social media feed daily. There are two fronts in using social media as a tool of propaganda. One is the overt front, the strategic communication; while another is more dangerous and use fake handles to spread their word. Moreover, the real damage is being done by Whatsapp and end to end social media platforms. The secrecy and comparatively enhanced encryption of these platforms ensure that any conspiracy be developed and executed in a safer way. Any anti-national material can be easily penetrated into phones of young Kashmiris even before it is intercepted as per ISPR’s long devised policy.Some people advocate that social media should be completely barred from Kashmir, particularly in south Kashmir which has become a hotbed for anti-terror operations. I find it totally useless to do so. In modern times, social media can be a game-changer; the propaganda spread through it by some elements cannot decide to negate its positive effects.There are some of the inspirational stories from the violence-torn Kashmir. The budding cricketers from valley, the women athletes who want to do big, the young entrepreneurs braving all odds, the talented youngsters, have just one platform to show to the world, a glimpse of their dreams, the social media. Banning of 4G internet contributes nothing significant to national security. It is however felt as a collective punishment by the masses. The hybrid war that is being fought in ‘battleground Kashmir’ needs an offensive strategy in terms of strategic communications.Even after a late awakening, the strategy employed on this particular front seems to yield nothing significant but instead, the banning of high-speed internet has alienated a lot of young people, provoked resentments among masses, and contributed nothing significant towards de-radicalization. From the past one months, there has been anti-terror operations in these twins districts have been intensified and soon these districts would become a terror free as the majority of core terrorists have been eliminated by the security forces. Pakistan has lost its efforts to play dual faces to navigate its propaganda government level and also on social media and would land them nowhere. We are seeing now big change on the ground that more youth are joining the army and other security agencies. They are now seeing what is wrong and what is right and soon Kashmir will turn into a peaceful land.