Thousands of users from PoK and Gilgit-Baltistan region are friends with each other on Facebook
Internet particularly social networking sites have made the Line of Control which is known as ‘khooni lakeer’ or bloody line to many people living on the two sides of the de facto border irrelevant in many ways.
Thousands of Facebook users in Jammu and Kashmir are in the friend list of those from Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan region of the State which Pakistan claims to be its ‘Northern Areas’. They interact through the website and exchange ideas and share videos and pictures on issues of their interest on regular basis. Twitter.com too has brought people including academicians, journalists, legislators, lawyers and members of civil societies closer to each other.
Religion, ethnicity or political ideology or affiliation is no bar for choosing friends on the Facebook. Many Kashmiri Pandits including those uprooted from their home and hearth in the aftermath of outbreak of insurgency in the Valley two and half decades ago are friends with their fellow Kashmiris living on the other side of the LoC and in Pakistan. They freely and cordially exchange ideas and try to make therapeutic efforts to address the otherwise bitter issues confronting them as people of a territory which got divided nearly seven decades ago.
Sometimes discussions turn sour but as said by one of the users Avtar Kishen Mattoo, “It is better to know each others’ viewpoint on an issue than remain ignorant.” Another Facebook user Zoya Khan said, “The (divide) line has shrunk”.
Also, people on both sides follow each other on Twitter. Former Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah, has thousands of followers in PoK and many more in Pakistan. The other Kashmiri leaders who have sizable numbers of followers from the other Kashmir on Twitter.com are Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq. From PoK and Pakistan, many politicians, academicians, social and human rights activists, media persons and civil society icons are followed by people from Jammu and Kashmir on Twitter and vice versa.
People on the two sides also have access to newspapers, periodicals and news portals which keeps them updated on political developments and social issues and events on either side. “Sometimes, I feel is there really a divide line there,” said Nazir Ahmed Butt, a Net-savvy Srinagar resident who is also on both Facebook and Twitter.com and remains in touch with his friends and followers on the other side of the LoC “on regular basis.”
Internet and particularly social networking sites have proved beneficial also to the divided families. With no telephone lines open between Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan, they stay in touch with each other through emails and share their joys and sorrows on social networking sites particularly Facebook.
The security agencies see no major threat in the two-way contact on social networking sites as it is open to their scrutiny. Nevertheless, they -not just in Jammu and Kashmir but in entire country-work proactively to keep a close watch on web content which is available in public domain and have possible implication on law and order and overall national security.