SRINAGAR: If a young boy from Srinagar in Kashmir speaks out against curfew imposed in his locality on Twitter, should his government employed father be penalized? If a man posts a photo of protests on his Facebook page, can the government stop employment benefits to his wife?

These, and other questions, sometimes full of humor and sarcasm, have been flooding Facebook and Twitter after the Jammu and Kashmir government yesterday issued guidelines to its 4.8 lakh employees, specifying how they must behave while using social media.

Asking them to refrain from associating themselves with any political party or posting 'anti-social, anti-national and illegal' remarks while on social media, the 16-page guidelines have been incorporated into the Constitution of J&K, giving sweeping powers to the government to crack the whip on any sign of criticism.

“The state government clamps 'opinion curfew' on all government employees in the 21st century through an archaic order. A possible next order may bar employees from liking a post or using a or emoticon on social media. Very progressive step aimed at zubaan bandi. In the name of democracy and battle of ideas,” Gowhar Geelani, a political commentator wrote on Facebook.

In Jammu and Kashmir, where thousands of state employees use the social media to stay up to date on daily happenings and also post their opinions, the new guidelines are seen as a sign of the frustration of the PDP-BJP coalition government which has failed in delivering on the promises made to the people while it has intensified crackdown on separatists and their sympathizers.

“The Government wants the employees to be like dead frogs on the social media and to create a chilling effect on the freedom of speech and expression. The words used are too vague and broad and thus this SRO must be challenged in the Court of law. It’s akin to the Section 66A IT Act , which was stuck down by the Supreme Court of India,” Habeel Iqbal, a lawyer based in South Kashmir, said.

The guidelines brought out the best of wit and humor in Kashmiri netizens who use social media regularly, “Govt has been also benevolent in issuing social media guidelines to its employees as it has not talked about whether an employee requires a permission to marry or not. Where govt needs appreciation it should be appreciated!,” Naseer Ganai, a journalist with Outlook, wrote on Facebook.

Others advised the government employees to open anonymous accounts for staying in touch, “Dear Netizens, in view of this recent government gag order for its employees, please brace up for more Angel Priya, Charming Princess accounts. Remember: any Dady’s princess account could be Gafoor Bhai in real. Thanks,” Khalid Gul, a resident of Anantnag district wrote on Facebook.

However, others supported the government move, “Jokes apart, Government employees must observe a certain code of conduct while using social media. I mean good behaviour, nothing more. I have seen some teachers hurling invective, doctors abusing with freedom, officers getting into unsavoury arguments and engineers sharing indecent content much to everyone's embarassment (sic). That is not acceptable. Even criticism has to be worded politely,” IAS officer Shah Faesal, wrote on Facebook.

The new guidelines, invoking J&K service conduct rules, warn that any violation of the directives empowers the government to dismiss the erring employees from service, pre-maturely retire them, withhold their promotion or salary increments and even demote them to lower positions.