Hacktivist group Anonymous joined thousands of others to protest the shutdown of internet services in Kashmir for the fourth consecutive day by authorities after the hanging of Afzal Guru, a key accused in the Parliament attack case.
Anonymous, which shot to fame in India after it brought down the websites of the Supreme Court and Congress Party last year, on Tuesday expressed its support to the people of Kashmir until the ban on internet and media services are lifted.
“We stand with # Kashmiras it comes to the end of its 3rd day under curfew. The comms blockade will fall. We are with you. # KashmirNow,” a message posted on one of the Twitter accounts of Anonymous read.
Mobile internet services were suspended across Kashmir Valley on Saturday after the hanging of Afzal Guru in New Delhi. Online protests gathered steam by evening and thousands took to Twitter to express their anger censorships and blockades.
A senior official from the Department of Telecom, which had last year ordered the blocking of several Twitter accounts and websites, said internet services were blocked to avoid any further escalation of violence in Kashmir. But internet experts said a ban of communication services do not result in peace, instead it curtails the basic right of citizens to exchange messages.
“Government can ban certain class of messages and certain class of users, but definitely not a blanket ban of all services,” said Sunil Abraham, executive director of Bangalore-based research organisation, the Centre for Internet and Society.
Essential commodities such as medicines, newspapers etc too are in short supply in Kashmir, where three people died and over 50 were injured in clashes since Saturday.
Anonymous has also been posting photographs from the region. One of the Twitter accounts of the group, @ anon_warlockon Tuesday tweeted, “A gag has been put on everything, information at best is trickling down”.
Last year, Anonymous, known for its use of Guy Fawkes masks, had organised rallies across Indian cities to protest internet censorship after India’s Department of Telecom blocked over 250 websites and 30 Twitter accounts for posting communal images and videos that led to people from Northeast exit Bangalore and a few other Indian cities.
“Internet service providers in the Valley were asked by officials in the Ministry of Home Affairs to switch off connectivity on Saturday morning. There has been no further communication from the Ministry until now and we don’t expect any withdrawal in the next few days,” a senior industry executive with direct knowledge of the matter told ET. He added that any decision on withdrawal of the ban will be taken only after the MHA and intelligence officials take stock of the situation.
Centre of Internet’s Abraham said he was not sure if messages on social media were being taken seriously by the government. “Research shows that during the times of public disruption, ban of communication services will only make things worse. Enlightened governments should know this and act accordingly.”