In the underbelly of Facebook is an organized propaganda for armed Kashmiri separatism

Selection_13_04_2016_002While doing some random online research, I came across a rather large network of Facebook accounts which seems to be an organized online propaganda by Armed Kashmiri Separatists or their supporters in order to encourage the Kashmiri youth to take up arms against the establishment.

Most of the posts in these accounts can be broadly categorized as follows:

  1. Pictures of separatists who have died as a result of police/army action.
  2. Pictures of separatists who are seemingly alive and the posts requesting the facebook followers to do ‘dua’ for them.
  3. Pictures of separatists, dead or alive, in combat uniforms and sporting one or multiple assault weapons. Some of them also pose with their laptops and computers to given an impression that they represent the ‘modern youth’.
  4. Videos of funerals and some other disturbing/grotesque videos.

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The fact that they are posting pictures of separatists who are seemingly alive and thus exposing their identities seems a little counter intuitive from the security point of view. However, the new wave of Kashmiri youth who have taken up arms, following the 2010 Kashmir unrest, with Burhan Wani as their new face, seem to have been doing exactly that i.e. posting their own individual images as well as group images in full combat uniform with multiple assault weapons which become viral on social media networks, thus becoming a strategy to attract youth.

burhan-wani-group-picture

Many of these accounts have been created recently with frequent complains of Facebook taking down their old accounts. However, quite a few of the accounts are also upto a couple of years old with many friends and followers and some posts getting upto 1000-1500 likes/shares and many comments. Many of these accounts, in their bio, claim that they’re from the Tral, Pulwama, Kulgam areas in Kashmir.

At the time of writing, following are some of the accounts which are active and propagandising. This list includes some seemingly fake accounts of Burhan Wani who has become the new face of the Armed Kashmiri separatists in the online world.

Through the friends’ lists of the above accounts, 100s of other such accounts can be accessed. It is a pretty massive web of accounts.

The nature of content remains essentially the same across all the accounts which would point to the fact that it is an organized propaganda. Also, there seems to be an organized database of these Facebook accounts because even new accounts which are just a few days old have 100s of people in the friends list or followers. For eg the account in the next screenshot is just 3 days old but already has 115 followers. Could be many more in the friends list which is hidden.

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The content itself seems to be unique in the sense that it is generally not available on the world wide web and those who are posting the images/videos seem to have their private cache probably distributed using a different messaging mechanism. Google Image Search has a reverse image search functionality which lets you upload an image and Google returns search results of the different sites on the Internet where these images have been used. On performing a reverse google image search for the images uploaded to these accounts, in many cases, Google returned nil results, which would mean that these images are probably not available on the Internet, or not at-least in the parts of Internet that Google has access to or has indexed.

I also came across a couple of videos of army operations against separatists which are probably leaked by the army themselves and show the army examining dead bodies and dragging them away. I’m not going to post links to those videos because they are grotesque but here’s a link to a video which is seemingly of a training base camp. (Authenticity not verified)

(If and when the above account gets suspended, the video will also become unavailable.)

A lot of these accounts call for an armed struggle and thus clearly violate multiple Indian laws. However, the fact that Indian intelligence agencies haven’t pulled the kill switch on these accounts, with some of these accounts being operational for over 2 years, probably points to the possibility that some of these accounts could even be booby traps. Even though this web of online propaganda is an attempt to attract Kashmiri Youth to an armed struggle, it also gives a chance to the Indian intelligence agencies to infiltrate such online networks thus making it a double edged sword. As it happens, many compatriots of Burhan Wani have been killed by the Indian security forces in the recent past.

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Update:
Within 3 hours of this story of mine, already some of the most prolific propagandising accounts on Facebook which have been active for close to 2 years (and magically not spotted by the IB till now) and were trying to make a case for armed Kashmiri separatism are down now. The top 3 links in the 6-7 links that I posted.

Possibly, they were mass reported.

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