September 2017 News

NIA's Major Crackdown: Several Social Media Accounts Blocked

5 September 2017
The Daily Excelsior
Sanjeev Pargal

Srinagar: In biggest ever crackdown on misuse of social media started by the Union Ministries of Home and Information Technology, a large number of twitter and Facebook accounts and Groups have been blocked, or were in the process of being blocked, after 6386 telephone users were identified by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), which were being used for fanning extremism and unrest in the Kashmir valley. In another major development, the NIA today arrested two persons including photojournalist Kamran Yusuf, working for a local English daily newspaper from Pulwama and Javed Ahmad Bhat from Kulgam for their involvement in instigating youth to indulge in stone pelting and protests. The arrests came just a day before Kashmir Bar Association Mian Qayoom was scheduled to appear before the NIA at agency's New Delhi headquarters in connection with a case of terror funding in which 10 separatists and others have already been arrested. Sources told the Excelsior that nearly 125 twitter handlers-tweets, 79 WhatsApp Groups and accounts and 6386 mobile telephones have been blocked, which were spreading highly inflammatory information pertaining to happenings in Kashmir including anti-terror operations and drive against terror funding and hawala operations. The Union Ministry for Information Technology had used Section 69A of Information Technology Act, 2000 to issue directions for blockade of accounts while the Union Home Ministry has used the powers vested with it to issue similar directions. 'The Ministries had got reports from several agencies that large number of twitter and Facebook accounts were being misused to spread venom among the people of Kashmir and other places by militants, their sympathizers, separatists and some vested interests. The users of these accounts and Groups were being heavily paid through hawala money,' sources said, adding that the NIA, which was investigating terror funding and hawala operations and some Intelligence agencies had sounded alert about 'anti-national activities', which invited action. Asserting that majority of accounts and Groups identified by the investigators stood blocked, or were in the process of being blocked, sources said a total of 6386 mobile telephone users have been identified, who were handling these accounts to spread hatred against security forces among the people to fan extremism and unrest in the Kashmir valley. 'The blockade of accounts had massive impact in the Valley especially in South Kashmir, where unrest in the form of street protests and incidents of stone pelting have come down considerably,' sources said and expressed hope that such activities would go down further in the next few days. Majority of the accounts, according to sources, were being operated from Pakistan and Gulf countries. Sources said the NIA with the assistance of other security and Intelligence agencies had to conduct lot of exercise to identify the groups and then get them blocked after it was established that they were being used in fanning trouble in the Valley. Meanwhile, continuing with its probe in the funding of terror and separatist activities in the Kashmir valley, the NIA today arrested two men, including a freelance photo-journalist, who allegedly indulged in stone pelting and mobilized support against security personnel through social media, sources said. The two were identified as Javed Ahmed Bhat from Kulgam and Kamran Yusuf from Pulwama, who contributed photographs to some local newspapers, they said. This was the first time that the National Investigating Agency made an arrest from South Kashmir after filing a case on May 30 in which the leader of the Pakistan-based Jamaat-ud-Dawa and banned terrorist outfit Lashkar-e-Toiba, Hafiz Saeed, was named as an accused. According to the NIA, Bhat and Yusuf were involved in stone pelting incidents besides organizing groups of youths who would throw stones at security personnel involved in counter insurgency operations. Yusuf, who had often been warned by the local police, was allegedly mobilizing the youth and clicking their pictures for circulation in local and national newspapers. The two, who will be produced before a special NIA court in New Delhi tomorrow, also circulated on social networking sites pictures and videos that sparked widespread rumours in the Valley, sources said. The NIA has arrested seven separatists and a businessman for the case of alleged funding of terror and subversive activities in the Kashmir valley to fuel unrest there while the Enforcement Directorate had arrested separatist Shabir Shah and his aide. None of them has been bailed out so far. The case was registered on issues of raising, receiving and collecting funds through various illegal means, including hawala channels, for funding such activities. It also included causing disruption in the Valley by pelting the forces with stones, burning schools, damaging public property and waging war against India. For the first time since the rise of militancy in Jammu and Kashmir in the early 1990s a Central probe agency conducted raids in connection with the funding of terrorist and separatist groups.