The lockdown of Indian occupied Kashmir by India has been going on for over four months. The autonomy of the region was taken by the Indian government in August. Now Kashmiris are disappearing from WhatsApp. Initially, nobody knew the reason for it. The citizens of the disputed geographical territory are leaving the WhatsApp groups in which they had participated. They are only leaving behind a “[Phone number] left” message.
Four months have passed since the Indian government has shut down the internet services in Kashmir. This has cut off the region from the rest of the world. Due to this, some people felt that Kashmiris who are disappearing from WhatsApp groups have not done it on their own.
A Facebook spokesperson said that the disappearances of Kashmiris from WhatsApp are due to the policy of the messaging app regarding inactive accounts.
They wrote, “To maintain security and limit data retention, WhatsApp accounts generally expire after 120 days of inactivity. When that happens, those accounts automatically exit their WhatsApp groups. People will need to be re-added to groups upon regaining access to the Internet and joining WhatsApp again.”
The spokesperson did not reveal as to how many Kashmiris have been affected due to this. The people who have been inactive on WhatsApp for over 120 days would have to re-register on WhatsApp. They would have to recreate their profiles on the platform.
Around 400 million Indians use WhatsApp. Thus, India is one of the largest market for WhatsApp. Online conversations in India are dominated by WhatsApp groups. Thus, as Kashmiri people started disappearing from groups, many people started noticing.
A Twitterati Khalid Shah tweeted, “4 months of inactivity, WhatsApp accounts from Kashmir are getting deleted. Weird to see individuals you haven’t spoken for all these months ‘leave’ WA groups whereas in reality an important part of their digital imprint – images, videos, texts & memories attached – vanishing.”
Mudasir Firdosi, a London-based Kashmiri doctor who is in around 6 WhatsApp groups with friends and family in Kashmir said, “I initially thought that internet services had been restored in Kashmir and maybe these people were just removing themselves from WhatsApp groups on their own. But I quickly realized that’s not the case.” Sabah Hamid tweeted, “Kashmir contacts automatically “exiting” from my WhatsApp groups today. I know they would not have been able to see my messages anyway, but this is heartbreakingly symbolic.”