New Delhi: The Police in Kargil sector in the recently created Union Territory of Ladakh have issued an order asking WhatsApp group admins to register themselves with their nearest police posts “within two days”.
Since 2018, district administration in some parts of Kashmir Valley have been issuing such orders even though information technology experts have been questioning these move citing various grounds.
In July 2018, Kishtwar district magistrate Angrez Singh Rana issued a similar order following a report by district SSP Abrar Choudhary that WhatsApp groups “were spreading rumours, false information and unconfirmed and baked information”.
He had warned them that they would be liable for action under Information Technology Act and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act – UAPA – for not conforming to the order.
Before the parliamentary elections, in March 2019, the district magistrate of Kupwara district, Anshul Garg, had also asked WhatsApp group admins to register with the local administration within a fortnight citing spread of fake news on social media. He also warned the violators of action under the same Acts.
Around that time, Kathua Police too asked local WhatsApp group admins to register at local police stations. The press release by the police reportedly mentioned that the directions “are intended to fix the responsibility of admins of WhatsApp groups and individual forwarding, transmitting and circulating sensitive and provocative messages which may result in breach of peace and law and order situation in the district.”
In 2017, a youth from Maharashtra, Junaid Khan, was sent to jail for being the admin of a WhatsApp group where some content posted by a member was found to be objectionable.
Citing spread of ‘fake news’ in such groups, the press note of the January 7 order of the Kargil Police station inspector Lotus Rabqis reportedly said, “General public of the district is hereby requested to desist from the misuse of social media platforms by uploading sensitive content which may pose grave threat to peace ad communal harmony in the district.”
Since social media platforms “are liable to punitive action various sections of the law”, it said, “all the admins of WhatsApp groups would be responsible for the contents shared in their respective groups. Moreover, all the admins of unregistered WhatsApp groups are directed to get their groups registered at the respective police station/police post within two days positively”. The police order, however, doesn’t mention any incident of fake news that had come to its notice recently.
A relatively peaceful part of erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir, the residents of Kargil had taken to the streets in August 2019 to protest the central government’s decision to separate it from Kashmir Valley and attach it to the newly carved out Union Territory of Ladakh.