Tensions in the disputed area of Kashmir are rising thanks to a conspiracy theory, spreading like wildfire, that government supplied LED luminaires are equipped with ‘spy sensors’, which betray the location of militants to the Indian government.
Kashmir, which lies on the borders of India, Pakistan and China, is one of the world's most militarised areas.
Some Kashmiris are under the impression that the LEDs transmit information about the movements of militants to the Indian security services.
In response to the rumour mill Kashmiris have begun smashing the luminaires in the street and have started looking for alternatives.
The Jammu and Kashmir government, which is part of the Indian state, has denied that the LEDs play any role other than illumination, and are instead part of an India-wide scheme to get more people using LED luminaires in the home.
‘We’re told that within minutes of militants having switched on the lights in the house where they had taken refuge, the army storm the hideout.
This means there’s some connection between these lights and the tipoff that leads to the military encounters,’ a group of villagers told the Kashmir Post.
‘I broke one of the bulbs to try and find the spy chip but couldn’t find anything,’ another villager commented.
‘Still I am replacing them all because it’s better to be safe than to be unwittingly used by the Indian government. Who knows if my bedroom gossip is also getting recorded,’ the villager added.
The so-called ‘Ujala’ scheme, which has seen the distribution of subsidised LEDs across India has been criticised by some private LED manufacturers who have lost business because of the government policy.
The government has suggested that the ‘spy-lights’ rumour, might be an attempt at sabotage on the part of private players in order to delegitimise the government LED scheme and claw back lost business.
‘These bulbs are not manufactured by the government but five leading private companies,’ Er Hashmat Qazi, a manger of the Ujala commented.
'Plus this scheme is not for Kashmir alone but is a nationwide LED program.’
‘Streetlights have in the past been smashed so that militants enjoy free movement in darkness without getting identified. But people suspecting their own domestic lights as being spies? That is news to me,’ Rayees Mohammad Bhat, senior superintendent of Police in Pulwama told the Kashmir Post.