India has ordered internet service providers in Indian-controlled Kashmir to immediately block Facebook, Twitter, and 20 other social media sites and online applications for one month, after several videos and photos depicting alleged abuses of Kashmiris by Indian security forces sparked outrage and fueled protests. The government said the restrictions were ordered "in the interest of maintenance of public order." But Pranesh Prakash, policy director for the Indian advocacy group the Center for internet and Society, called it a "blow to freedom of speech" and "legally unprecedented in India," the AP reports. "It not only violates the Indian constitution but also violates international law," he said.
The government has halted internet service before in an attempt to prevent anti-India demonstrations from being organized. But this is the first time authorities have shut down social media following the circulation of videos of alleged abuse by Indian soldiers. Several recent clips, captured in the days surrounding a violence-plagued local election April 9, have proven to be especially powerful and have helped to intensify anti-India protests. The video that drew the most outrage was of young shawl weaver Farooq Ahmed Dar tied to the hood of an army jeep as it patrolled villages on voting day. A soldier can be heard saying over a loudspeaker, "Stone throwers will meet a similar fate," as residents look on aghast.