India has blamed Pakistan for posting threatening messages on the internet that triggered a mass exodus from Bangalore, Mumbai, Pune and Chennai by migrants fleeing to their homes in the northeast.
The exodus was sparked by threats sent via mobile phones and the websites carrying Pakistan’s IP addresses, conveying that people from Assam, particularly the Christian tribesmen, would be attacked by Muslims after the end of Ramazan in reprisal for recent ethnic violence in the northeastern state.
“Our agencies have discovered that the bulk of these messages have been uploaded on various Pakistani websites,” Indian Home Secretary R K Singh told reporters. “This is a first of its kind and we believe it is highly reprehensible,” he said.
Singh said India would register a formal protest with Pakistan.
Youtube, social media sites and Pakistan-based websites were used to create the scare. Most of the provocative online content started getting posted from July 13, and fake profiles were created for spreading morphed pictures, according to a home ministry report prepared in the wake of the mass exodus.
“Pictures have been taken from different occasions such as the Tibet earthquake and Thailand, etc, and most of the fake profiles have been created in the end of July,” the report said.
“The viewed content is a small sample of what is available, since most of the posts are in vernacular mediums, translations of which have not been attempted,” it said.
Three weeks of clashes in Assam between members of the Bodo tribal community and Muslims have claimed at least 80 lives and displaced more than 400,000 people. All of India was taken aback when last week, 5,000 people from North Eastern India who lived in Bangalore and Pune began heading for railway stations, catching trains back to Assam.
Radical Muslim and Hindu groups alike have denied any role in this unprecedented episode of cyber-terrorism. India has banned bulk text messages temporarily to try to halt the spread of threats and incendiary rumours.
Indian officials also said that the issue would be discussed when Indian Foreign Minister S M Krishna visits Islamabad during the first week of September.
Pakistan has debunked the allegations. Foreign Office spokesman Moazzam Ali Khan said, “We regard these insinuations totally baseless and unfounded. Such statements are not conducive to an environment necessary for improving the relationship between the two countries.”
Another official requesting anonymity said that such allegations harm the carefully maintained bilateral ties between the two countries.
“First the issue of Pakistani Hindus’ migration was highlighted by the Indian authorities and media, now there is another issue taking place which is being worked out to merely purport Pakistan’s involvement in a purely internal matter of India,” said the official.
(WITH ADDITIONAL REPORING BY SUMERA KHAN IN ISLAMABAD AND AFP)
Published in The Express Tribune, August 20th, 2012.