Why Facebook should not ban pro-Kashmir activists

Kashmir is witnessing a new uprising wave after death of Burhan Wani, a young militant separatist. Tens of thousands of people came out to attend his funeral. In a recent interview with Hindustan Times, his father told that he was proud of his son.

India, as usual, implemented curfew and suspended mobile internet services in Kashmir to stop large demonstrations, but Kashmiri people defied the curfew and continued demonstrations. Indian forces confronted the demonstrations with their trademark brutality and left 30 civilians dead so far.

The world is silent and looking into the conflict with Modi’s eyes, who has fueled religious intolerance in the country after coming to power. Attacks on minorities by Hindu Extremists have increased and human rights situation is worsening. A renowned American academic Noam Chomsky has accused Modi of deteriorating human rights situation in India few months ago.

I added this pretext to analyze a recent Facebook administration attack on the accounts and pages of pro-Kashmir activists and organizations, in UK and Pakistan. This includes Tehreek-e-Kashmir UK, an independent and peaceful organization striving for Kashmiris’ right to self-determination. TKU’s president Raja Fahim Kayani has announced to go to court against this illegal Facebook ban though. FB account of a pro-Kashmir activist Huma Dar was also blocked; she is an academic associated with University of California, Berkeley. There are many reports in Pakistan as well.

Previously such things were mostly happening in Indian Occupied Kashmir. Internet is frequently banned there for days, FB pages and accounts are inspected by security forces and users are regularly intimidated.

Facebook has provided a great platform to the world to express opinions and expressions. It has changed the conventional way of launching and running movements. Arab Spring witnessed this power of social media. I also support FB founder Mark Zuckerberg’s vision to provide free internet access to every person in the world and to make world more open for discussion but their recent actions on pro-Kashmir activists are a mockery to the vision of Facebook.

I personally believe that peaceful struggle is more fruitful for Kashmiri people and militancy will only weaken their cause. But question is, is there any problem with condemning extra-judicial killing of Burhan Wani and support for his cause against the occupation, when Kashmiri people are denied their right to protest peacefully? Is there no difference between a terrorist and a freedom fighter?

We can argue that the way Wani chose may not be ideal but this is also true that he and his group have never applauded, never launched attacks on civilians. Last month in June, when an Indian BSF officer claimed that militants were planning an attack on Amarnath Yatra, a Hindu religious ritual, Wani denounced any such planning or activity.

He said, “Recently, a BSF officer has said that we have plans for attacking Amarnath Yatra, which is totally wrong. We have no plans to target Yatris nor will we attack them. They are performing their religious duties here and we have nothing to do with that”. He also stated, “The Hindus (Pandits), who are outside, can live at their own places where they have their houses and land and they will find us as their guardians.”

We have seen a similar situation in Libya when Qaddafi did not allow peaceful demonstrations and used brutal force against its people; the people of Libya started an armed struggle against him. In Libya, US and its allies not only supported the rebels but launched a full invasion to help them win against Qaddafi forces. Same is the case here; you can agree or disagree with Wani but it is not necessary to condemn him because he was fighting the forces who were denying his basic right to choose his will.

Kashmir is the oldest conflict on UN agenda. Some Hurriyat leaders are in detention for years. Human rights’ violations against them have no signs of stopping any time soom. According to Times of India, “Pak Sar Zeameen” is one of the most favorite ringtones in Indian-held Kashmir, which is transferred from mobile to mobile. Facebook should avoid being part of the conflict in future; instead it should extend its platform for a more open discussion and pave a way for a Scotland like referendum in Kashmir.

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