Why are social media platforms silencing Kashmiri voices? | Social Media News

For decades, India has sought to cover up what is happening in Kashmir. Since 1947 he has worked hard to appropriate and distort Kashmir history, culture and identity. He sought to stifle Kashmiri voices denouncing the oppression of the Kashmiri people and to whitewash their crimes.

With the advent of social media, Kashmiris found an indispensable platform for free expression where they could share their plight with the world. Kashmir solidarity pages have proliferated and conversations about the Kashmir struggle have moved online. But this newly found freedom did not last long.

Social media platforms, under pressure from the Indian government, began to shut down Kashmir-related pages and accounts of Kashmiri activists. In 2016, amid a crackdown on protests in Kashmir, Facebook deleted Kashmiri pages and posts about current events. Journalists reported that videos of police brutality were blocked. Academics and intellectuals have also seen their accounts disabled.

Following the abrogation of the special status of Kashmir by the Indian government on August 5, 2019 and the imposition of a brutal lockdown, social media platforms were quick to censor content about Kashmir again. . As Kashmir was cut off from the world, with the suspension of the internet and mobile communications, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter began to delete posts, block videos and shut down accounts trying to shed light on the situation. disastrous in the region.

Since then, the Indian government has partially lifted the lockdown on Kashmir, but social media platforms have continued to purge Kashmir-related content.

In the latest censorship episode, Twitter shut down the accounts of Kashmir Civitas, Stand With Kashmir, the Kashmir podcast, the account of young Kashmiri scholar Ifat Gazia, and my personal Twitter account @fchak in March.

By removing content and accounts critical of India’s Kashmir policy, Facebook and Twitter are complicit in suppressing Kashmiri voices that resist military occupation and colonialism of their lands. By censoring these voices, social networks restrict the right to freedom of expression.

Our organization, Kashmir Civitas, is a non-governmental civil society and strategic advocacy entity registered in Canada and committed to the socio-political and economic empowerment of the peoples of the disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir.

It is an open and transparent organization that peacefully challenges the false narratives that India has spread about the disputed region. He is campaigning for the fundamental right to self-determination of the Kashmiri people. No democratic regime or individual, group or nation of principle would credibly deny this right.

In addition, the organization’s founding decree is not only based on the inalienable rights of Kashmiris as enshrined in the United Nations Charter, but is based on the principles expressed in a total of 18 United Nations (UN) resolutions. on Kashmir, including Security Council Resolutions 39. and 47, adopted in 1948. Both unequivocally recognize the inherent right of self-determination of the Kashmiri people and provide for the status of Kashmir to be decided within the framework of a free and fair plebiscite under the auspices of the United Nations.

Our organization firmly believes that the Kashmir dispute is not a bilateral issue between Pakistan and India. It’s more of an international issue. Yet the most important stakeholders are the Kashmiri people – the “state subjects” of the disputed territory, who have every right to resist, by any legal means, the colonization of their lands by the occupying forces. Indian.

As such, our organization defends the democratic principles of freedom, equality and inherent dignity of all human beings, without distinction of race, religion, sex or creed. It aims to lobby, facilitate and work for the moral, educational, economic, cultural and political upliftment of Kashmiri society on both sides of the ceasefire line and among the diaspora.

Why would Facebook and Twitter silence those who tell the truth and the facts, then glorify those who operate in deception? We sent several inquiries to Twitter, but they never explained to us why our account was closed. Then suddenly it was reinstated, just like the other suspended accounts.

Twitter censorship comes amid India’s unprecedented campaign to silence Kashmiri voices, strip the Kashmiri people of their rights and take the Kashmir issue completely off the international agenda.

Since the repeal of Kashmir’s special status in 2019, which removed its rights to self-government and paved the way for the settlement of non-Kashmiris on Kashmir lands, more troops have been deployed to the region. . The repression has intensified. Journalists trying to report on the situation in Kashmir have faced censorship and intimidation, while politicians, activists and even ordinary citizens, including children, have been arrested by the thousands.

Even before this escalation, Kashmir was the most militarized place on the planet. Currently, over a million Indian soldiers are deployed in the valley.

The Kashmir issue is one of the longest unresolved conflicts on the UN agenda. Over 95,000 people have been killed since the early 1990s and around 6,700 unmarked and mass graves have been discovered. Countless numbers of women have been harassed and sexually assaulted.

It is in this dire situation that platforms like Twitter and Facebook choose to side with the repressive Indian government, which – in the midst of its growing authoritarianism – still wants to be democratic.

One of the most admirable aspects of democracy – along with freedom, equality, pluralism and inclusion – is the empowerment of civil society, which holds the powerful accountable. A free and vibrant civil society is not only able to curb abuses of power, but also to promote healthy civic engagement and participation, which is the foundation of democratic and participatory policies.

By closing the accounts of collectives like Kashmir Civitas and Stand With Kashmir, Facebook and Twitter are siding with anti-democratic forces seeking to silence not only the Kashmiris, but all those who dare to oppose it. While the books are now on order, we must remain vigilant and ensure that the power does not remain unchecked. By making the request of the Indian government, Twitter and Facebook went against their own “commitment to free speech” and “to defend and respect the voice of the user”.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Al Jazeera.

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