Following CDS Rawat’s death, crackdown on social media users intensifies in Kashmir

Afreen Naqash, 26 years old from Srinagar, an employee in the Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) bank, was scrolling on social media, and accidentally she clicked twice and sent a laughing emoji reaction to a news story on the chopper crash in which the Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat died.

Afreen Naqash, 26 years old from Srinagar, an employee in the Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) bank, was scrolling on social media, and accidentally she clicked twice and sent a laughing emoji reaction to a news story on the chopper crash in which the Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat died.

As the laughing emoji reaction of Afreen, on NDTV’s story, went viral on social media, she received a call from bank headquarter with regard to this “laughing emoji reaction”. 

One day later, the bank authorities took cognizance of the matter and have placed Afreen under suspension for reacting with ‘laugh emoji’ at a social media post on Rawat’s death.

“Despite repeated circulars issued from time to time against the misuse of social media platforms contrary to the interests/rules of the bank, in one such incident, one of our employees had made derogatory comments/remarks on social media on a tragic accident,” the bank stated in the letter of suspension.

“The contents are purely defamatory and not in consonance with conduct rules governing the service of the employee,” the suspension order said.

After her father’s death in 2015, Afreen got an opportunity to work in Jammu and Kashmir bank. She is the sole bread earner of her family and survived by her mother only.

While talking to Maktoob, Afreen’s mother said that the financial conditions of their home are too feeble.

“We don’t have anyone here who can take care of our home, she (Afreen) is mentally disturbed now after seeing suspension order on social media,” she said.

She said that they are not aware of the consequences of this laughing emoji, and her daughter reacted. “How emoji can be anti-national and how does it hurt the sentiments of a particular section of society?” She questions.

At least eight people have been arrested and two booked across the country, over social media posts on the death of Rawat, his wife, and other officers in a helicopter crash in Tamil Nadu. Along with Kashmir, action against such posts has been taken in Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Karnataka, and Rajasthan.

As the news of Bipin Rawat’s demise got out on social media, a shopkeeper from a small hamlet near Rajouri was arrested by the Jammu and Kashmir Police for allegedly forwarding a Facebook post against Rawat.

However, the police had not disclosed his identity but said that an FIR is already lodged against the accused at Rajouri Police station. Sources said he has been identified as Mohammad A Shafi.

According to Rajouri Station House Officer Sameer Jeelani, the social media content by Shafi was highly “sensitive in nature and intolerable.”

“We have detained him under preventive provisions,” he said.

One of the lawyers, who practices at High Court of Jammu and Kashmir, Srinagar, wished not to be named, told Maktoob that he had not studied any provision in the law on “emoji.” He says that she had not written any comment nor any word that violated the country’s sovereignty.

“I studied international law, business law, and commercial law but I could not find anywhere law on ‘Emoji’, ” Lawyer says.

He questioned that how can the bank authorities put her under suspension, that too for a laughing emoji reaction adding, that she should be given an opportunity, let her version come out.

“Mistakenly even a patriotic person can click a wrong emoji on the of demise country’s top dignitary, how it can be proved that a person is guilty,” he says.

Irshad Hussain is an independent Journalist in Kashmir and tweets from @Irshad55hussain