02 Nov 2017/Thursday

Emergence of Poster Boy Burhan Wani on Social Media in 2015 and his subsequent elimination in 2016 was a blessing in disguise for all stake holders in reviving the dead insurgency in Kashmir. His death was hyped so much in Pakistan that it reached a crescendo with Nawaj Sharif shamelessly eulogising him as a freedom fighter, in his speech in UN. Large No of campaigns were organized and spread through Social Media, both in Pakistan and other countries to glorify Burhan and at the same time show India in poor light. Indian authorities woke up to realise the enormity of power of Social Media in fueling the militancy and took counter steps. As of now there is hardly any mention of Burhan, either in Pakistan or anywhere else in the world, except a cursory mention and some orchestrated shows on his death anniversaries.

Just as social media glorified militants to the public, it also prompted their supporters out of the shadows. Earlier over ground workers (OGW) preferred to remain anonymous. A young post graduate OGW confesses:

 “when we saw them revealing their identities on social media, we also came out in the open. We came to know who our heroes were and took pride in associating with them.” 

With everything out in open and whole militant network exposed in Social Media, it became very easy for the security agencies to weave the unseen portion of the web. It was just wait and watch for them before they started crack down on insurgency in Kashmir. As Social Media was a boon to fledgling militancy, it also proved to be a boon for Security Agencies in eliminating the militant network. Number of OGWs and influencers were identified and neutralized with the analysis of Social Media.

Is another Burhan Possible?

Burhan Wani as a poster boy was not the well thought out and executed plan of any one or any agency. He was simply a creation of own self. His desire to be popular among girls drove him to use social media specially Facebook and WhatsApp. His regular appearances on Social Media platforms gave him immense popularity and ranks started swelling with many youths joining and trying to imitate him. Facebook page of 11 militants with Burhan surrounded with other fellow Mujahideens was an instant hit. Sadly after two years, only one remains alive out of the lot. Social media, which once gave militancy a boost; is being seen as a pariah. It is now being blamed for setbacks. Sometime in August, Riyaz Naikoo, the Hizb ul-Mujahideen commander, issued a diktat to its militants to give up the use of smartphones. With the men in the photograph being killed one by one and the network under threat of extinction, the boom phase of social media-fuelled militancy seems to be over.