Police begins crackdowns on ‘keypad mercenaries’ on social media
Srinagar, May 27:The Jammu and Kashmir Police has a new task at hand — identify the “keypad mercenaries” who spew venom on social networking sites to try and create a law and order situation in the state by spreading on the Internet rumours or giving communal colour to any event.
The police has registered cases against five twitter handles and filed complaints with service providers against such misleading posts on Facebook and WhatsApp so that necessary action is taken at the earliest, officials have said.
The officials said a communication had been sent to the micro-blogging site for providing details of the twitter handles so that punitive action could be initiated at the earliest as it would help in reining in what is called ‘keypad mercenaries’.
Police has laid special emphasis on monitoring the social networking websites and also various groups created on messaging services like WhatsApp, Telegram and similar such tools available on the Internet, they said.
The idea behind the crackdown on ‘keypad mercenaries’ was to ensure that police could concentrate more on nabbing or eliminating militants with real guns rather than those who wage war against the state machinery using keypads.
The officials said that post-2016, the misinformation campaign from some groups in Kashmir as well as in Jammu was at its peak with each party trying to project an incident for their political goals which had a potential of pushing the state to communal clashes.
They said the new battleground and a new battle is far removed from the conventional weaponry and the conventional fighting zones of the narrow streets and forests where new age mercenaries use computers and smartphones to wage war from just about anywhere in the Valley or outside, well entrenched inside their homes or out on the streets, from a nearby café or even just a convenient roadside.
“We have passed on several complaints to the Computer Emergency Response Team-India (CERT-IN) for blocking several pages on Facebook and Twitter,” said officials, adding that many SIM cards which were used to spread canards on messaging services like WhatsApp have been blocked with the help of the service provider.
The immediate worry for security agencies is the forthcoming two-month long Amarnath Yatra, beginning last week of next month, and they fear that anyone, while just sitting from the confines of a home, can plant fake news in one of the thousand chat groups and the entire state can plunge into communal violence, the officials said.
They claimed there have been instances when fake pictures of desecration of shrines are circulated by a particular community and all of sudden there is an outrage when no such incident had taken place.
Similarly, in the Valley, false news about firing and subsequent killing of civilians was circulated in an attempt to create unrest in other parts of Kashmir. However, timely action saved the day for the police and it was ensured that the culprits were booked.
There have also been instances of circulation of photo-shopped pictures of ordinary civilians as militants whereas the unknown victim would have been attending his daily duties. “We had many such cases including the one in Ganderbal where picture of a shopkeeper was circulated with an assault rifle as having joined a militant group.”
“On inquiry we found that he was selling his groceries and one of his business rivals had played the mischief. A case was registered under relevant sections of Information and Technology act and the accused was arrested,” a senior police official said.
“It is a virtual battleground where a bloody war is fought, but with words. However, this has an impact on the young minds,” the officer said.
The social chat groups are active not just in Jammu and Kashmir. They are seeing participation from youngsters in the national capital, rest of the country and abroad as well.
In the Valley, social media access had been controlled to a large extent after authorities clamped down on over two dozen websites but the problem in Jammu and other parts of the country continues.