Separatists go online in curfewed Kashmir

Separatists go online in curfewed Kashmir

In less than a week's time, dozens of videos of United Jehad Council Chairman and chief of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen Syed Salahuddin and hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani have been uploaded on video-sharing website Youtube and other social networking sites.

This is for the first time in the last 20 years, when the insurgency began in the state, and also for the first time in last ten years, when Internet started becoming popular in Kashmir, that any political or militant group is using cyber-space for communicating with the people.

In the past, these groups have mostly relied on news channels and newspapers while the hardline faction of Hurriyat Conference has vehemently pursued the course of addressing gatherings including the funerals of militants.

In the latest video, uploaded on Youtube on September 17, Hizb chief Salahuddin, seen in a dim lit room wearing his trademark skull cap and a scarf on his shoulders, addresses the people of Kashmir, asking them to refrain from the all-party delegation -- which he termed as a 'fraud'.

Hizb chief also expresses support for Geelani's September 21 call for march to army camps to press the demand for withdrawal of security forces.

The September 21 protest was later called off by the Geelani group.

In another video uploaded on September 14, Salahuddin praised the role of youth in the current wave of protests saying they will be remembered in the history of the world.
A barrage of Syed Ali Shah Geelani's videos have been uploaded on the Internet, making him a prominent face in the virtual world.

The telephonic interviews of Geelani with national and international channels have also been recorded in video and uploaded on the Internet.

In a recent video shot at Geelani's Hyderpora residence and uploaded on September 17, Geelani is seen talking on a telephone - presumably addressing people at the funeral of a militant who was killed after a gunfight with the police and Army in south Kashmir's Tral region.

In the video, Geelani eulogises the militants.

In the last three months as the space for dissent remain curtailed due to severe restrictions and curfews, hundreds of Kashmir's netizens have used Internet to share the pictures and videos of alleged human rights violations committed by the security forces.

Pictures of stone-pelting youth and funerals of those killed in the police and paramilitary firing have also been a regular feature since the protests erupted on June 11, when a teenage student, Tufail Mattoo, was killed after being hit by a tear-smoke cannister.

Masarat Alam, who in the last three months has attained iconic status in the separatist camp and the stone-pelting youngsters, was among the first to use the Internet for the purpose of spreading his message.

His videos, including the one in which he addressed the armed forces asking them to quit Jammu and Kashmir, became an instant hit among the Kashmir's 'online rebels'.
"This is an appeal to all soldiers of the Indian armed forces," he began his message in the 6:16 minute video uploaded on Youtube on July 27. "We appeal to you on behalf of our people to quit Jammu Kashmir," he said.

Masarat is now the most wanted separatist leader and continues to remain elusive. He was last reported to have been seen on Eid day in Khanyar locality of Srinagar where he addressed a gathering before disappearing again.

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