Srinagar: Along with fighting the war against militants on the ground, the police department is gearing up for a cyber war against the pro-freedom narrative in Kashmir.
Director General of Police SP Vaid told Kashmir Reader that the police department has formulated a social media strategy to counter what he described as the negative propaganda of a large number of social media users.
“We are under constant pressure from some of the people on social media who use this platform to promote propaganda,” Vaid said. “So, to counter the barrage of online negative propaganda being carried out regarding the prevailing situation, we have activated our social media activities and devised a new social media strategy.”
Vaid said the police had to take to social media to keep pace with what is happening in society. “We will connect with society through social media. We have to do it in the changing times,” Vaid said.
The police have created new accounts on social media including on Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp.
“We have been updating the happenings in Kashmir through Twitter and Facebook. Besides, we are updating information through WhatsApp,” a police official said.
“The police have instructed the district-level officers and DIGs to use social media to connect with people,” he added.
The police official said that the department has not yet deployed separate employees for handling social media.
“The war of narratives is online now. We need to change the narrative onslaught of the other side,” the police official said referring to the pro-freedom posts on social media. “The idea is to change the narrative back to the mainstream. Otherwise, if left uncontested, it would prevail.”
On social media, particularly on Twitter and Facebook, the police are now regularly updating events, and information about men the police have lost in the fight against militancy in the past 30 years.
“Every day we write the name of a policeman who lost his life fighting separatism. It is a sort of remembrance. It is like saying we have not forgotten them. It keeps the morale high,” the official said. “In the coming days we will go for aggressive pushing of our narrative against the anti-nationals.”
Former army commanders and experts in New Delhi have been constantly asking the state of Jammu and Kashmir to push for a change in narrative, to win the battle for hearts and minds of Kashmiris. Social media has emerged as a crucial challenge to the state. Common people have uploaded videos of human rights violations involving beating of people by the army and killing of youths, contesting the statist version of the events.
Apart from the unprecedented pro-freedom student protests this year, the most talked about incident on social media has been the human shield one, in which a Budgam man was tied to the bonnet of a jeep by the army.
Concerned over such versions on social media, the government has often shut down the internet when a militant or a civilian has been killed. The government has also resorted to reducing the speed of internet to prevent people from uploading or downloading videos.
“Social media has become a headache,” confessed another police official. “By pulling it down we have been able to save the situation from spiralling out of control. It has worked, so far.”
In May this year, the government officially banned social media networks and websites to stop the surge of pro-freedom street protests in Kashmir.