Why are Kashmiris disappearing from WhatsApp amid internet shutdown?

It's been exactly four months since internet services were snapped in Kashmir. Even as Kashmiris continue to endure the shutdown, on Wednesday, they began vanishing in large numbers from the social media platform WhatsApp, Buzzfeed reported.

The locals who disappeared from the platform have long been active participants in Whatsapp groups sharing news and updates. No one was quite sure of what was happening.

“I thought that internet services had been restored in Kashmir and maybe these people were just removing themselves from WhatsApp groups on their own,” Mudasir Firdosi, a London-based Kashmiri doctor who is in half a dozen WhatsApp groups told Buzzfeed.

A Facebook spokesperson told Buzzfeed that the disappearances were the result of WhatsApp's policy on inactive accounts. "To maintain security and limit data retention, WhatsApp accounts generally expire after 120 days of inactivity," he said. "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." 

Suhail Lyser, a Kashmiri student from Dehradun, told BuzzFeed News that he saw more than 150 Kashmiris in a WhatsApp group suddenly disappear from the group. But according to another Kashmiri doctor who lives in New Delhi, people using WhatsApp due to their travels outside the state found their accounts intact. 

Facebook has so far been silent on the number of Kashmiris affected. People whose accounts became extinct will have to register afresh with WhatsApp and recreate their profiles. 

On August 5, India revoked the special status to Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcated the state into two Union territories, following which all communication lines were blocked. India is the largest market for WhatsApp with some 400 million active users.

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