Srinagar: In the past four years, the police have booked over a dozen people, including politicians, journalists and students under the Section 66 of the Information Technology (IT) Act that was declared as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court on Tuesday.
The people were booked soon after the harsh crackdown in the aftermath of the 2010 mass uprising during which 123 people, mainly youngsters, had been shot dead by police and paramilitary troopers during protests.
A teenager, Faizan Samad, was the first youth to be booked under the Act for posting pro-azadi slogans on Facebook. More than 16 people were booked in 2012 for their alleged role in organising protests through social networking websites.
Prominent broadcaster-turned-politician Nayeema Mehjoor recalls how she was booked under this Act.
“A man had been killed and as a journalist I had asked people what had happened in Kashmir. I was booked under the Act. That was a curb on freedom of speech and expression,” Nayeema told Kashmir Reader.
She said that a case against her was aimed to send a message to hundreds of thousands of people.
“I used to come to Kashmir three times, four times a year. And I always had apprehensions that I might get harassed or arrested. Every time you talk of human rights violations you are slapped with something Act or the other,” she said.
“I don’t know what has happened to the FIR against me, although the police said they will withdraw it. Now, I feel relieved today. I’m happy that the Act has been scrapped,” she added.
In October 2012, three youth from Kishtwar district were arrested and sent to jail for 40 days after they were tagged in an allegedly blasphemous video posted on Facebook. One of them had commented on the post.
In August 2014, Javed Ahmad from Budgam, Syed Tahir Bukhari from Baramulla and Raja Hilal from Pulwama were booked for allegedly spreading rumours and fabricated information using internet based messaging application WhatsApp. The trio was booked under Section 66/IT Act for sharing information which could create disturbances and destroy peace.
A month later, the police arrested the then joint secretary of state unit of Congress Salman Nizami for posting threatening remarks against two persons on their Facebook page. Nizami was booked under the Section 66 of IT Act and 504 and 506 of RPC.
In January, 2013, police filed a case (No. 12/2013) under the 66 IT Act against the netizens who had uploaded a two-minute duration video clip on Facebook purportedly showing a group of policemen ruthlessly beating youth inside a police in north Kashmir’s Baramulla district. The boys in the video were seen pleading before two senior officers as the cops were taking off their pants and hurling abuses in Kashmiri.
In February, 2013, Rajbagh police station registered a case under Section 66 A of the IT Act and Section 506 RPC (Criminal Intimidation) against at least half a dozen netizens who had posted abusive messages against an all-girl rock band “Pragaash”.
Supreme Court had on several occasions warned about the potential abuse of the Act. The apex court’s remarks on Tuesday’s once again bring into focus the wanton abuse of the law in Kashmir, where people have been used in the state to arrest people for posting content the authorities deemed ‘anti-national’.
After the SC verdict, the police said it will review the cases of all the people who had been booked under Section 66 of the IT Act.
“We will look into the cases in the light of the Supreme Court verdict. So whatever remedial measures need to be taken, we will do that,” Inspector General of Police Kashmir Javed Gilani told Kashmir Reader.