By Peerzada Ashiq

It’s love versus war in Kashmir. As the authorities clampdown on internet users fueling strong rumors of ban on social networking sites, it’s has young couples jittery. The authorities, however, denied having mooted any such plan.

The rumour was floated after the recent black out of internet in the valley. On September 21, the authorities blocked internet and mobile service to stop any public mobilization in the wake of release of anti-Islam blasphemous videos on YouTube.

On Thursday, the police lodged 15 cases in different police stations of Kashmir Zone for prompting religious enmity among different groups on ground of religion” by uploading the blasphemous film clips from Innocence of Muslims’.

The police, who have a cyber cell exclusively dedicated to cyber crime, have been hacking anti-India and pro-separatists Facebook pages in the past.

A prior permission was taken from the chief judicial magistrate to block certain URL addresses after convincing him of the repercussions of the video. Not more than 15 – 20 were blocked across the valley this month,” said a senior police officer on the condition of anonymity.

The authorities in the valley declined that there was any move to ban social networking sites. We have no such direction and nothing of that sort was discussed,” said Srinagar deputy commissioner Baseer Ahmad Khan.

Senior police officers, preferring not to be named, denied any such move.

Cracking down on the freedom of people who are already hurt and alienated will create more problems than solve them. Freedom of expression is for all or for none. The plan to crackdown on internet users is part of a larger media gag.”

The youth need their space and freedom, they’re expressing themselves through the Internet- creatively or otherwise- as it is the only free medium,” said Shehla Rashid, Project Officer at Internet Democracy Project, New Delhi.

During 2010 street agitation, social networking sites emerged as a tool to exchange information during the five-long long curfew period. The police had to arrest many administrators of the Facebook pages who were supporters of stone throwers.

In 2009, the government had banned SMS service for post-paid cellular services in the state, affecting 80% of 48 lakh mobile customers in the valley.

If grievances are genuine, protests will occur. If not, protests cannot be manufactured over SMS,” said Shora, an activist fighting against SMS ban in vogue in the state.

Originally published in Hindustan Times.