April 2016 News

In Protest-Hit Kupwara In Kashmir, Register Your WhatsApp Group

20 April 2016

Srinagar: In Jammu and Kashmir's Kupwara, which has seen fierce protests and clashes in the past week, a government circular asks all WhatsApp groups to register themselves within 10 days. The circular names an officer who is to head the 'Social Media Centre' for the registration of WhatsApp groups and will also monitor them. The government says group administrators will be blamed for 'irresponsible remarks leading to untoward incidents'. Government employees have been banned from commenting on the policies of the government in these groups. Mobile internet services were suspended in the Kashmir Valley for days to check the spread of rumours after five people were killed in firing by security forces during violent protests in Handwara and Kupwara. The new rules have provoked sharp disapproval among WhatsApp users. The All India Students Association called the order 'irrational'. 'It is unacceptable to say the least. It amounts to censorship and gagging,' the group said. A senior government official said this is an attempt to check the circulation of rumours or false information on WhatsApp, by people who are 'supposedly reliable sources of information'. Speaking to the Press Trust of India, the official cited a wrong figure of deaths during the Handwara protests circulated allegedly by a journalist. Students have strongly opposed the WhatsApp restriction. 'This is a direct attack on freedom of expression. Now the government wants to know what people share on their WhatsApp groups. Wonder what will follow next!' said a student.