The Jammu and Kashmir Police arrested two youths on Thursday and Friday from Srinagar and Handwara for alleged rumour-mongering on social media. The Kupwara Police arrested Imtiyaz Ahmad Kawa, a resident of Saida Kadal in Srinagar city on Thursday from his home for posting allegedly fake photographs on Facebook accusing security forces of vandalism in North Kashmir last year, the Hindustan Times reported.
Kupwara Senior Superintendent of Police Ambarkar Shriram Dinkar said Kawa had uploaded a false Facebook post last year alleging security forces had damaged property worth lakhs in the district. “Some months ago, he updated his status falsely depicting that government forces had gone berserk in Panzgam area of Kupwara district,” Dinkar said. “The motive of the rumour monger was to malign the image of the forces in public and also to disrupt peace and tranquility in the area.”
Dinkar alleged that Kawa had been absconding since then and a couple of previous attempts to arrest him had failed. The accused is now lodged in a sub jail in Kupwara.
On Friday, the Handwara Police arrested and registered a case against a man identified as Waseem Majeed Dar, for allegedly spreading fake news and hatred on social media.
“Police Station Handwara received an information that some youth are circulating fake news and spreading rumours, hatred through social media platform,” a press note by the police said. “After strenuous efforts the culprit namely Waseem Majeed Dar...resident of Waskura, Handwara was apprehended. All sections of society have expressed their satisfaction over the prompt police action.”
The press note also asked the people not to believe rumours and fake news, or to “fall prey to the propaganda of such elements inimical to peace”.
The Indian government had abrogated the special status of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 of the Constitution on August 5 last year, divided the erstwhile state into two Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh, and imposed a lockdown. As part of the lockdown, all mobile phone and internet services were suspended.
Mobile 2G internet services were restored in a limited way for both prepaid and postpaid connections after over five months on January 25. However, this access was provided to only 301 “white listed” websites. On February 14, the Jammu and Kashmir administration issued an order banning all social media sites to curb the propagation of “false information/rumours” that would affect “social instability”. The FIR came a day after a video of ailing Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Geelani was uploaded on social media.
On February 17, the police said they had registered a first information report under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act against social media users who used VPNs to circumvent the internet ban. Virtual Private Networks, or VPN, allow users to mask their location and browse the internet more securely.