KOZHIKODE: People in the state may be familiar with hartal called by mainstream political parties. How about a hartal call through Facebook and WhatsApp? Well, that’s what happened on Monday when youth, closely linked through social media, took to the streets to forcibly down shutters, block vehicles and pelt stones on vehicles in north Kerala.
They were protesting the rape and murder of an eight-year-old in Jammu and Kashmir. The protesters were closely linked through social media on the basis of ‘ideology’ and not ‘political affiliation’, a trend that has left mainstream political parties worried.
The Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) was clearly taken aback when some of its cadre too joined the protests at a few places in Malappuram. The party issued a statement on Monday morning distancing itself from the ‘hartal’. It was just on Saturday evening that the party held peaceful protests to condemn the Kathua incident.
“We should identify those who are behind such attempts to unleash violence. There are democratic means to lodge protests and violence will only aggravate the situation and alienate people who have already expressed their solidarity,” IUML state general secretary K P A Majeed told Express.
IUML state general secretary K P A Majeed admitted the new trend of the youth launching campaign through social media and orchestrating protests was “dangerous” and “worrisome”. In a bid to counter potentially dangerous propaganda on social media from influencing its supporters, the party, in consultation with its youth wing, would chalk out a counter-strategy, he added.
The SDPI took an ambivalent stand after reports emerged that most of the protesters belonged to it. “The incident shows protests by mainstream political parties were not enough to assuage the resentment of youth. We should see this as a lesson. One cannot turn one’s back to people’s protests, though violence is not the solution,” said SDPI state president Abdul Majeed Faisi.
Meanwhile, the police said the social media campaign was meticulously planned with the aim of unleashing violence. “We have been monitoring these groups for the past few days. There was a plan for major violence but the police dealt with the situation effectively and did not allow it to spread. The police will go after those who are behind campaigns aimed at dividing society on communal lines,” said DGP (North) Rajesh Dewan.
Intelligence sources told Express that outfits with extremist ideology had planned to use the hartal to trigger violent incidents and create communal polarisation. This time around, social media was used to keep the plan under wraps. In the coming days, the activities of extremist elements will be under close watch, the sources added.