We know that after the 2016 uprising in Kashmir, Kashmiri activists on social media, whose educational work helped to change the course of human history for their struggle, have been harassed, censored, & repeatedly suspended on social media venues. That includes 90-year-old independence icon Syed Ali Geelani who was permanently suspended from FB for paying respect to a man killed by Indian forces (whose name & photo cannot be shown without suspension but whose funeral prayers in Kashmir were attended by over 600,000 mourners). Often their accounts were just disappeared & all their hard work with it. One photojournalist with over 65,000 followers had that account & 20 other accounts he attempted to set up just deleted with no appeal process.
Even Kashmiris supporters were suspended right & left & en masse so that we had to have a petition campaign for reinstatement. It didn’t work. We were still locked out 30-days & several permanently lost their accounts & all their work. I’ve lost count but think I’ve had at least six 30-day suspensions for writing about Kashmir. Not inflammatory stuff. One time, just a simple declarative sentence that there were affinities between the Kashmiri & Palestinian struggles. Then we find out that India’s Home Ministry & top government officials are publicly lobbying to get Twitter to suspend the accounts of eight relatively unknown Kashmiri supporters for spreading ‘fake news’. Four were actually suspended.
Many of us came to know those Kashmiri activists on social media like they were next door neighbors. We looked to them for understanding, came to admire their power as polemicists, writers, & commentators, drew on their insights, savored their sarcasm & wit as we admired their fearlessness & commitment. I say all this because quite frankly, I am very much afraid for them. India felt deeply threatened by them, enough to repeatedly snap the internet, at one time for months, repeatedly get them thrown off social media, & now completely shuts down all telecommunications.
When we talk about demanding the release of all Kashmiri political prisoners, we may be talking about many of our friends & India should know that we take that very personally indeed. We will fight tirelessly that India make an accounting of its Kashmiris prisoners & release every one of them without harm or further harassment.