Police say disturbing videos a challenge, but rule out internet blackout

Police say disturbing videos a challenge, but rule out internet blackout

At least 10 videos have surfaced since internet services were restored on April 13 after remaining off since April 9—the day elections were held for Srinagar-Budgam parliamentary constituency.

Although ‘disturbing videos’, in which forces are seen severely thrashing youths or protesters heckling CRPF troopers, have created a storm on social networking during the past few days, authorities will not snap internet services in the state.

The videos, according to police, have thrown up a “major challenge” for the entire security set up in Kashmir, prompting the state government to “re-vitalise the cyber-wing of police” with all possible support from various security agencies to face the challenge.

At least 10 videos have surfaced since internet services were restored on April 13 after remaining off since April 9—the day elections were held for Srinagar-Budgam parliamentary constituency. On the election day, eight civilians were shot dead by government forces, making the polls deadliest in the poll history of Kashmir. 

Minutes after the services were restored, social networking sites were flooded with videos showing CRPF men being heckled in Central Kashmir’s Budgam district. The video was followed by another one showing a youth tied to the front of an army jeep and being used as a human shield.

 And then many videos were also uploaded on the social networking site showing soldiers beating up a group of youth and forcing them into shouting anti-Pakistan slogans. 

A senior police officer said that cyber wing of police is keeping a close watch on the happenings on social networking sites. “We agree that many disturbing videos were uploaded on various social sites. We have taken cognizance of each video and investigations are on,” he said, wishing anonymity.  

Director General of Police (DGP) Dr S P Vaid, who allayed fears of internet blackout, said, “We don’t want to create problems for common people. Every Kashmir doesn’t misuse internet. There are many, whose livelihood is dependent on it, but yes, some videos are disturbing.” 

The DGP said there is no direction from the government nor do they intend to go for an indefinite gag of the internet.

On whether a separate mechanism was in place to deal with the videos, the police chief said that cyber wing of police has been tasked with tracing the accounts uploading disturbing videos. 

“But where there are allegations of thrashing of youth, we will take cognizance for sure,” he said.

Police sources said that cyber wing may get outside support from the army if the situation demands so. “Though police has full-fledged technical wing dealing with the cyber crime, but given the nature of videos there may be a mechanism to block the page or the user who uploads videos aimed at instigating youth,” a police official said.  

Banning internet completely, he said, doesn’t suit the situation as tourist season has started and all the bookings take place online. “So snapping internet is not on cards,” the sources said. 

They said that if the situation goes out of control, experts in cyber crime may be called in from New Delhi. 

Sources in the army said if the state government needs any assistance to counter videos aimed at “fomenting trouble”, the army is ready to extend a helping hand. Asked about the youth used as a human shield, sources said that investigations are on as the top brass has taken a serious note of the incident.