Candidates allege ‘online harassment’

Wasim Khalid
Srinagar: As the electioneering is gaining momentum with the first phase of the polls on November 25, many contesting candidates have filed complaints with police alleging “online harassment.”
“In the past, there have been fake Facebook pages of politicians containing weird photos and offensive updates, and nobody cared. But due to election season the candidates are taking it seriously. Hence we are receiving a number of complaints of such nature,” a senior police officer told Kashmir Reader.
The first to file a case was Hina Bhat, the BJP candidate from Amira Kadal Constituency, whose fake Facebook account was being operated by an unknown person, the police said.
“The fake account holder used to update romantic poetry and some offensive comments and photos of Hina,” said the police officer, adding that the account has been removed.
Chief of Awami Ittihaad Party, Engineer Abdul Rashid, who is seeking re-election from Langate Constituency, has complained to the police that a Facebook account named Haq-e-Islam ran a smear campaign and online trial him.
The police said the fake account holder also used to update revolutionary poetry directed against Rashid which he felt was “politically offensive in nature”. Subsequently the page has been removed, the police said.
Another complaint was lodged by the Ansari family. A Facebook page “Dajal-e-Kashmir” regularly posted offensive stuff about the PDP leader Moulvi Iftikhar Hussain Ansari who passed away recently.
“The fake account holder posted sectarian messages. Besides, there were scary photographs which were quite offensive and embarrassing for the Ansari family. The page has been removed,” the police officer said.
Lok Jan Shakti Party (LJP) candidate, Sanjay Saraf, who is contesting polls from Habba Kadal Constituency, has also complained about the Facebook page “Imtiyaz Reshi” which Saraf alleged ran a smear campaign by updating pictures which were “politically suicidal” for him.
PDP candidate from Sonawar, Ashraf Mir, who is contesting against Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, has also approached police and complained against fake accounts on Facebook and Twitter. Mir had alleged that the fake account holder updated poetry and politically sensitive material.
“We are in the process of registering Mir’s complaint,” the police said.
Senior Superintendent of Police, Amit Kumar told Kashmir Reader that “we have forwarded all such complaints to cyber police station.”
“We are identifying the culprits using their URLs. In two or three days we would trace the accused and they will be dealt with accordingly to the law,” Kumar said.
On Saturday, police said it had detained five persons for allegedly spreading rumours and promoting poll boycott on social media networking sites such as Facebook and Whatsapp.
Meanwhile, Saraf, the LJP candidate, admitted that he had filed a complaint with the police regarding what he termed as “online harassment”.
“The fake account holder used to update pictures of sensitive political nature. It had a definite political agenda. I felt threatened since there are multiple agencies with vested interests working here. Hence I complained to the police,” Saraf said.
Other candidates who have lodged complaints with the police about the fake Facebook accounts could not be reached for their comment.