It’s been more than an year since Kashmir has been on boil thanks to the untimely death of the new age militant Burhan Wani. While one may be surprised by the description of him as a militant rather than conveniently label him as a terrorist but the fact that thousands of Kashmiris, according to media reports, attended his funeral speaks volumes of his impact on the lives of disillusioned youth of the region.
Burhan wani’s death also reflects a rather peculiar sustained romanticism of grief and sorrow that prevails in Kashmir which is out poured in funerals, arson or even in social media. This particular romanticism of sorrow is more or less prominent in conflict riddled societies that has the power to mask the realities and push a doctrine of hate and victimhood.
Manufactured dissent on Social Media
Likewise, the raise of unassuming “son of headmaster” as coined by a prominent journalist, is more to do with his adept skills in social media and reaching out to dissenters in the country and abroad. These messages of “manufactured dissent “also flaunt doctored pictures that resonate deeply with misguided youth of the region as well as in the hostile neighborhood .The narrative of misery is also bolstered by casually tossing around of such doctored images on television and social media. This celebration of victim-hood fuels the gross perception of state’s atrocities in the eyes of dissenters .
The Kashmir conflict, for decades has been an issue of self-determination with an undercurrent of Islamist objectives is slowly heading towards a pan Islamic justification. In fact, the control and influence of both the factions of Hurriyats is eroding and a significant percent of the youth are looking up to likes of Zakir Musa, the commander in chief of Al Qaeda Hind, whose videos on social media have also been circulating.
Globally, terror groups allure to social media cannot be overstated. ISIS has successfully managed to draw attention and cadres using these innocuous channels on which a majority of teens and young adults across the world spend a significant amount of time. Again, use of social media can also be seen as an effective strategy by such group in pushing the narrative.
In fact, one look at the Facebook comments by some Kashmiris in response to certain news piece about the region on any random day will showcase the deep disillusionment among the youth who can be vulnerable targets of these terror groups.
Solutions via Social Media
Thus, the security establishment has to go beyond blocking sites and individuals on social media and start looking at creating effective strategy to counter the insidious narrative while exposing the perpetrators of violence and dissent. The suggestion may sound to be on lines of pushing propaganda but in the age of information war and influence, the government cannot twiddle its thumbs while passions are inflamed on social media.
Certain Media reports allege that Russia’s involved in 2016 US elections by apparently manipulating and pushing a narrative to individuals on social media in key battle states in order to get desired results. Hence, this can be seen as a possible model through which state can reach out the youth of Kashmir in order to not just temper the opinions but let them realize the ground realities.
On the other hand, it needs to be cautioned that this a not an advocacy of promoting half-truths and falsehoods that is currently been pursued by trolls on social media in order to build a nationalistic narrative. As such efforts will be under scanner of suspicion and will carry weight of trust deficit.
Rather, it is about having an effective strategy to challenge and counter narrative of terror group by say, reaching out to the individuals in the region by highlighting positive stories of unity, development as well as exposing the human rights violations by countries across the border who shed crocodile tears for the Kashmiris while suppressing territorial aspirations of their own indigenous groups.
It is high time that the concerned security establishment wakes up to these realities and start working on it while pursuing sincere efforts of pursuing peace and security in the region.
Article by M.S Adithya