In the December 2013 issue of Newsline, Mohammad Shehzad, one of Pakistan’s bold journalists writing on Pakistan’s role in Kashmir, its “non-state actors” and use of social media, stated in his piece titled ‘The War Within’, that during the tenure of People’s Party of Pakistan (PPP), jihadis/sectarian outfits started making use of the social media to extend their dangerous mission, not only in Pakistan, but across the world. However, instead of banning the provocative pages, the PPP government blocked all those Facebook pages and Twitter accounts that raised concerns about the rising militancy and sectarianism in the country.
More recently, in an article in the online website Daily O titled “South Kashmir becoming hotbed of terrorism”, ts writer, Daanish Bin Nabi brought out that elders in Kashmir valley were wary of the emerging discontent and its manifestations, that they believed that the political, economic and social rights of the youth have been compromised by the state government, and they blamed social media tools like WhatsApp and Facebook for playing an important role in the recruitment of militants and in radicalising Kashmiri youth. Nabi added that after Burhan Wani uploaded his video in early September 2015 in Nizampora, Shopian, terrorist organisations recruited 17 youth.
In 2016, the over 100 days of turmoil in Kashmir valley yet again proved how effectively social media can be misused against peace and security. Barely had the embers of that mayhem cooled that another surprise was sprung on social media.
The first salvo came from Border Security Force (BSF) constable Tej Bahadur Yadav, who complained of poor food on a Facebook video. This was quickly followed by another video from Constable Jeet Singh of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), seeking parity in facilities with their Army counterparts. Then Lance Naik Yagya Pratap Singh from the Army jumped into the fray, with a grievance against the ‘sahayak’ system in the Army, closely followed by Army nursing assistant Naik Ram Bhagat, complaining against poor food.
Having served in the infantry and armoured corps and having visited many army field formations, units and peace establishments as a defence ministry and army spokesperson, it was my experience that every soldiers’ cookhouse, colloquially called ‘langar’, for every sub-unit, always took pride in turning out sumptuous meals-whether cooked/flavoured to a particular community’s taste or in units with all-India mixed class composition. Even food cooked while on operational deployment/during exercises and often given packed to soldiers, has always been quite edible.
What emerges from these recent four videos is: (a) their coming one after the other, (b) all four individuals have been disciplinary cases, (c) the timing of these videos happens to be after a spell of Indian Army’s punitive strikes/retaliations across the Line of Control in Kashmir valley, where Pak army and terrorists supported by it took quite a beating, (d) interestingly, in Yadav’s Friend’s List, there are reportedly a number of Pakistani citizens and (e) considering (c) and (d), the possibility of Pakistan military/ISI cannot be ruled out.Also, the fact that these videos were repeatedly aired on TV channels for up to four days continuously, it cannot be put past some pro-Pakistan/ anti-national elements in India, or such oriented political persons being behind this wellcoordinated and sensational attempt to show security forces/the ruling government in poor light.
The Army Chief has rightly warned that those using social media to draw attention to their problems are adversely affecting the soldiers guarding the border and that they could be held guilty and punished. He was quite forthright in speaking about the matter of sahayaks as buddies and urged soldiers to address their complaints within the Army’s due system, assuring that complaints could even be addressed to him or to the GOC-in-C of Commands through complaint boxes.
What needs to be undertaken urgently is accessing the friends list of the other three complainants, as also for all CAPFs, defence and para-military forces to clamp down on use of social media and for the government to research and devise means to ensure that social media cannot hold the country to ransom. Alongside it should be ensured that service conditions for the CRPF are improved. The Force is moved all over the country and is often deployed as widely, with its companies being up to a couple of hundred kms away from the battalion headquarters. In last year’s Kashmir valley riots it suffered many casualties including fatal. The government and all armed services must ensure welfare with sufficient entitlements for their personnel.