Hours after Hizbul Mujahideen militant Waseem Ahmad Malla was killed in Shopian on April 7, a Facebook profile ‘Ess Eff’ with around 4,000 ‘friends’ had uploaded a photo of his body saying, “May Allah accept his shahadah”. The photo was ‘liked’ by around 1,100 netizens.
Another profile of ‘Minnat Ul Lah’ put out a similar message with a picture of two bodies with the hashtag “#Kupwara_SHAHEED (InShaAllah)”, soon after three LeT militants were killed on April 21.
A scroll down the two profiles reveals content that supports armed rebellion against India and encourages people to join it. Photos of young Kashmiri militants with rifles adorn the ‘Walls’ of such profiles and the captions read “mujahids”.
Like these two, “thousands” of profiles and pages are active today, said the police. Officers of the cyber crime police add that such activity is like a double-edged sword. While the percentage of “real” propaganda is quite less in the clutter, monitoring the “active accounts” often acts in the state’s favour as it allows them to keep a tab on what messages being circulated, they said.
“A silent mind is more dangerous than the one that speaks out. If they stop uploading, then how will we come to know what’s going on. We can track and take action against any profile – serious or fake – which we feel is offensive,” said a senior police officer.
In past, police have blocked many such accounts and registered cases against alleged operators. But all it takes for a new account on Facebook is a new e-mail address. HT found that many such users have written about being “back after account was taken down”.
Many such accounts are operated from across the border, show police investigations.
A senior police officer told HT that many such profiles have been tracked to Pakistan and operators across the border often try to interact with “like-minded youth” in Kashmir for information on gun-battles in that youth’s locality or photos of militants killed there.
Social media experts said knowing that the content is highly “anti-national” and the cyber crime branch constantly monitors the web, had the user been in India, he/she “would have been very scared to be at it”.
While most of these accounts appear to be run by sympathisers, sources in cyber crime branch told HT militants also use social media platforms and the police are on the lookout to track their location.
What makes the content on these accounts “unique” is that they are not available elsewhere on the internet. “This hints that such account operators have their private cache distributed using a different messaging mechanism,” said social media activist Pratik Sinha, who recently researched and blogged about such profiles.