KashBook, KashmirChat: In times of social media ban, Kashmir youth develop alternatives to Facebook, Snapchat

The public response in Kashmir prompted its developers to upgrade Kashbook through a full-fledged advanced application to give same look and feel of Facebook

At a time when some of their age-group people are staging anti-government protests in Kashmir, these tech-savvy youths have been busy on their computers, coding means to defy a government ban on social media sites in the restive region, where student protests have been going on for the past over a month, in the fresh spell of violence.

In their effort to keep the people of homeland connected through social media in times of government ban, these guys have been able to successfully launch at least two desi versions of giant platforms like Facebook and SnapChat through Kashbook and KashmirChat respectively.

Developed by 16-year-old Zeyan Shafiq from Anantnag district and his friend Uzair Jan, Kashbook existed since 2013, much like a primitive kind of social media platform. But the prevalent ban on social media and eagerness of the Kashmiri subscribers to opt for it has given the local platform a new lease of life.

The public response prompted its developers to upgrade the Kashbook through a full-fledged advanced application that gives the same look and feel of Facebook. Since April 26, when the government imposed a blanket ban on as many as 22 popular social media sites including Facebook, Snapchat, Whatsapp and Twitter, over 1,500 users have switched over to Kashbook.

And so, while Kashbook is going trendy, there’s another app, which is picking up as a favourite messaging service in the Valley.

Titled KashmirChat, this messenger app is the brainchild of a tech-savvy trio from volatile Baran Pathar locality of congested Batamaloo, otherwise seen as a hub of aazadi sentiment in the summer capital of Srinagar.

Since the unrest of 2016, at least three people have died in the area in action by government forces while scores were wounded or arrested during demonstrations. Amid an uneasy situation in the locality, Naveed Malik, Hanan Muzaffar and Usman Tareen have programmed their own chat service from Batamaloo.

“KashmirChat messenger is a cross-platform instant messaging application that allows Android phone users to exchange text, image, video and audio messages for free. The messages are secured with an end to end privacy encryption means safe, secure and private. The users can send unlimited messages, emojis, images, videos, audio, and files with friends and all others …This app is not least than others,” the programmers say.

Throwing light on the features of the app, the developers say “KashmirChat is private and its messages are heavily encrypted and can self-destruct. Besides, it lets you access your messages from multiple devices.”

The service claims to be free forever with no subscription fee. “It has no limits on size of media and chats, while your messages safe from hacker attacks.”

With 4.7 star ratings on Google play-store, KashmirChat has bagged over 5,000 downloads in the past few days. Like Kashbook, this app has also been upgraded recently.

Ironically, even such creative efforts aren’t immune to trolling. Many have been commenting on the Google Play Store that such apps are a product of cut and paste, something “easily available online for copycats.” But others keep appreciating the developers saying, “At least, they did something for Kashmir.”