Social Media is a Powerful Tool | #socialmedia | #children

Social media could arguably be considered as a powerful tool in today’s times, not only in the global context but also in Kashmir. Since 2010 when social media burst onto the Kashmir scene in a big way, it has proved to be both boon and bane for the local populace. For example, militant outfits have used it as a potent tool to radicalise the local Kashmiri youth and lure them into their folds. At the same time, same social media has provided a powerful platform to distressed mothers to call their militants sons back to their homes. The use of new age media in the Valley has thus come a full circle with both positive and negative dimensions of it on full display. Social media, infact, is a paradigm shifter in terms of the tools available to protestors in Kashmir. They no longer need to resort to many of the erstwhile measures employed for networking. Instead, social media has given them the space to raise awareness, spread information and plan protest rallies through completely legitimate and safe means. If we go by the figures, the number of people in Kashmir with access to social media has increased significantly from 25 percent in 2010 to about 90 percent by the end of 2017. Experts believe that some separatist leaders in Kashmir are using social media platforms to get across the masses to “fuel unrest in the valley.” ‘The separatists’ design has changed and they are using a social media based radicalisation campaign to influence the minds of the youth in the state,” experts claim. Common Kashmiris were on Facebook or Twitter or other social networking platforms as individuals, trying to get connected with old friends, some lost due to time and circumstances and some due to displacement triggered by violence. Such is the nature of the social media that it has forced the Army and other Security Forces to fight a battle of perception both within the force and outside, lest it becomes a ‘Monster gone out of control’. With increasing use of social media for instant communication, the Security Forces better find a quick solution to the challenges they face or, else, they would continue to remain on the back foot despite doing a sterling work in combating the proxy war in Kashmir. Militant and fundamentalist elements backed up by Pakistan are recruiting and radicalising the youth at a much faster pace riding the social media bandwagon. Pakistan has launched a relentless social media campaign to motivate youth to join militancy, and has not shied away from playing rank divisive religious cards to swell the cadre strength of various outfits. Though, the process of radicalising youth has been going on for a long time, more worrying part of recent developments is that the educated youth are also now getting sucked into it by the process of self-radicalisation due to seamless access to indoctrinating contents (audios/ videos of highly influential religious leaders) available on social media. If reports are to be believed, youth are using code words and secret language through social media for their networking. The pick out syndicates affiliated to certain sects propagating extremist ideology are leaving no stone unturned in corrupting the young gullible mind and are making great use of social media in doing so. The overall situation is giving sleepless nights to the police and intelligence agencies. Adolescent youth of Kashmir may have pent up anger against the establishment as a result of the prolonged conflict, but they have never associated themselves with radicalised ideology in any significant way. But, is the scenario charging? Is social media acting as catalyst in this regard? The focus of the de-radicalisation programme therefore should be focused towards ‘reintegrating the teens back into the mainstream.’ Similarly, for social media roping in religious heads with proven moderate credentials to discuss topics related to faith, religion and conciliatory messages of Holy Scriptures need to be considered by the civil society and the saner voices. Rehabilitation of former militants, a counselling programme for detainees in jail, sensitising parents, and so on are some of the counter-measures that need to be pursued as part of the de-radicalisation undertaking to turn the tide. Surveillance on social media must be enhanced as it plays a major role in “radicalisation” of youth. Numerous steps to wean away the local youth from militancy and to intensify the vigil and monitor the cross border infiltration in this border state are also required to be instituted. The government, in this regard, must take stern action against social media campaigns to stop separatist movement, which is being run from inside and outside the Valley and damaging the Kashmiri social fabric beyond repair. The need of the hour is to bring down the level of violence and give “Peace” a chance. We owe it to our future generation.

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