Cancelling Passports Over Facebook Posts? Modi Govt's Testing New Intimidation Tactics On Kashmiris

Betwa Sharma
Indian paramilitary soldiers guard at a closed market in Srinagar, Kashmir, Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2019. 

NEW DELHI — On 29 August, a Jammu and Kashmir police officer tweeted out the names and Facebook profile photos of five men, accusing them of “posting fake news, instigating people to disturb peace in the area.” 

The men, who belong to Poonch and Rajouri districts of the recently created Union Territory, currently live in Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and were alleged to have posted “sensitive remarks” on Facebook. 

The police registered FIRs against them for “promoting enmity between different groups on the grounds of religion, race...,” and under Section 66B of the Information Technology Act, which is “punishment for dishonestly receiving stolen computer resource or communication device.”

When a Kashmiri physicist from Srinagar, who had published a Facebook post on 20 August alleging that the Indian army had beaten and tortured a fellow Kashmiri, heard the news, he started feeling worried.  

The substance wasn’t surprising in itself—booking people for social media posts has happened too many times in India, especially since the Narendra Modi government came to power in 2014.  

What really startled the physicist, who is studying in Europe, was a news report that quoted  Yougal Manhas, Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) of Rajouri, Jammu, as saying that that process to cancel the passports of the five men would be started soon.

“Are they going to start cancelling passports now? I don’t know what to do. Should I take down the post? I really don’t want to take it down. I know that I’m not lying,” the physicist asked worriedly, speaking on the condition of anonymity. 

In an interview, SSP Manhas told HuffPost India that the five people in question had published posts that “set one religious community against another,” and threatened India’s sovereignty. “They said that ’we are ready to do jihad against the Government of India,’” he said. 

The investigation is ongoing, and he confirmed that cancelling...

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