Other States

Thousands ‘auto-exit’ from WhatsApp in Kashmir

A man looks at his mobile phones in front of shuttered shops in Srinagar. File   | Photo Credit: AFP

As the Internet blackout in Kashmir crossed 121 days, tens of thousands WhatsApp users who have “auto-exited” are in fear of losing personal data.

Dr. Khursheed Ahmad who works in Mumbai informed his family members living in Srinagar on Wednesday night that all relatives have suddenly “left” the family WhatsApp group. Dr. Ahmad is among hundreds of WhatsApp users who have auto-exited due to the social media platform’s company policy.

“The data on the group came to a halt on August 5. We used to share wedding and birthday pictures and inform each other about our well being. All pictures are gone,” said Dr. Ahmad.

Nazia Kareem, a resident of Khanyar, who was in touch with a U.S.-based doctor about his father’s rare illness, said she fears she might have lost important medical records and prescriptions saved on the application. “I am not sure if the line-of-medical treatment saved on WhatsApp will be there once I re-register myself,” she lamented.

“To maintain security and limit data retention, WhatsApp accounts generally expire after 120 days of inactivity. Those accounts automatically exit their WhatsApp groups. People will need to be re-added to groups,” WhatsApp said in a statement.

“Kashmir contacts automatically ‘exiting.’ I know they would not have been able to see my messages anyway, but this is heartbreakingly symbolic,” wrote Sabah Hamid, a Twitter user, living outside Kashmir.

Students anxious

Hundreds of job aspirants visit the lone Internet facility at Srinagar’s Tourist Reception Centre (TRC) everyday and return home disappointed. Tahira Khanam, a resident of Pulwama, was holding a slip that put her at No. 123 in the queue for a desktop with Internet at the TRC. She is among hundreds of aspirants waiting to fill forms for the National Eligibility Entrance Test. The online registration will close on December 31. Around one lakh aspirants sit for the exam annually.

“The rush is huge. Students despite waiting for over three hours have failed to get a chance to access the Internet,” said Ms. Khanam. The aspirants appealed to the authorities to set up separate Internet facilities for students. “Non availability of Internet will ruin us. We will be rendered unemployable in the job market,” she said.

As traders stare at ₹15,000 crore losses since August 5 when the centre revoked J&K’s special status, Ajaz Shahdar, vice-chairman of the Kashmir Economic Alliance, a businessmen’s body, said, “Business houses are failing to bid in tenders, do banking or file taxes. We are heading for a bleak future.”

Meanwhile, the authorities have decided to unblock e-way bill generation till further orders, as it acknowledged that the tax payers have failed to pay GST for the past three months. According to official figures, over 16,000 traders were blocked on the GSTN portal for failure to pay taxes on time.

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Printable version | Mar 6, 2021 3:20:34 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/thousands-auto-exit-from-whatsapp-in-kashmir/article30197665.ece

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