Social Media: Freedom of expression or propaganda
Banished, banned and outnumbered is what the government claims when it comes to the once dreaded militant outfit, Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC), however, if one goes by the number of followers in the social networking site–Facebook, the outfit still has a strong footing amongst the people of the state.
Its presence is still being felt at large in the virtual world as it was found that as any as 4, 301 facebook users have associated themselves with the page—' (Supporters) of Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC)' with a description that read 'FREE HYNNIEWTREP STATE. ARISE, AWAKE AND SACRIFICE. LONGLIVE HNLC..Go Back Hindustan. Long live HNLC, long live HNLC'
Shockingly, it was also found that most of these supporters are mainly youth.
Four thousand three hundred and one may seem a meagre number when compared to the population of the state, however, it is alarming to note that its members consists of people who indulges in anti-government propaganda like creating a page in facebook with the name—'Freedom to Hynniewtrep Land we are not Indian our land is not India's land' which has another 400-500 followers.
There are even some young followers who mentioned in their comments about their keen desire to join the outfit—be it HNLC or GNLA. 'Nga kwh lt join HNLC tngba ngm ioh pt' which means 'I want to join HNLC but I could not get into' and 'Ng kwh bn join GNLA' which means, 'I want to join GNLA'.
The comments ranges from anti-government to communal remarks and are liked by many people.
However, there are users with rational comments like 'I love my homeland but I will never join HNLC'. There are also other groups which condemn the violent activities of the militant outfits like a community in FB—'I hate GNLA' with 285 active members within its ambit.
It may be mentioned that under 66 A of IT Act, sending of offensive messages through communication service, etc was punishable. However, this section was quashed by the Supreme Court earlier this year citing that it makes no distinction on whether the communication has any impact on public order. What may be offensive to one may not be to another, what may be annoying to one may not be to another. That is what renders 66A unconstitutional and vague.
On the brighter side, though section 66 A is gone; one can still get arrested posting indiscrete content on social networking sites. Like Section 505 of IPC which punishes persons who spread rumour through their statement to cause public disorder with an imprisonment up to 3 years.
Similarly, there is Section 69 A of the IT Act which grants power to the government to issue directions for blocking for public access of any information through any computer resource.
When contacted, Superintendent of Police (City) Vivek Syiem termed this trend as alarming while citing that the question of choice comes into play here. "It is a question of choice. If we are wise, well brought up, then the question of evoking tensions and hatred will not arise. It depends from person to person," he added.
Stating that time and technological advancement cannot be stopped, Syiem stressed on the need for parents to realised the changes and talk to their children on these issues especially while they are growing up.
For sure, we have the right to freedom of expression but does the freedom to expression give us the right to incite communal disharmony and hatred?