Authorities in Indian-controlled Kashmir jumped on the 'Innocence of Muslim' film as an excuse to shut down social media in the disputed region.
The move follows a gradual increase in online surveillance throughout the past few years in Kashmir, as youths have turned to social media as a form of political expression. After people in the Kashmir Valley protested the recent anti-Islam video that unleashed similar protests across the Muslim world, observers say it gave the government the excuse it was looking for and YouTube and Facebook went dead.
“This is one more step in pursuit of depriving the people of avenues of expression. The telecast of blasphemous film on YouTube simply served as a pretext to execute a predetermined policy by the government,” says Sheikh Showkat Hussain, a political analyst and academic who teaches human rights at Kashmir University.
For six decades, a piece of land about the size of Britain situated between Pakistan and India has been the source of major tension and fighting between the two countries. Many within the mostly-Muslim Kashmir Valley want to be free of India. Nearly 70,000 people died following the outbreak of an armed Kashmiri insurgency in 1989, now quelled.
Kashmir’s state government has clamped down on freedom of speech in the past. During mass street protests in 2008, the government banned SMS text messaging. And since another protest wave in 2010, a number of college students have been arrested and taken to Cyber Cell Police Station, located in the summer capital of Srinagar, for posting or uploading anti-India text or pictures on Facebook or YouTube.