The last few days have witnessed a virulent and concerted campaign on social media by Pakistan handles, and perhaps ISI-backed stooges, to peddle fake news, misinformation vis-a-vis the situation in Jammu and Kashmir. What is as concerning is that these handles have been used to hatemonger and warmonger over Kashmir, following J&K's complete integration with India owing to the scrapping of Article 370 and the bifurcation of the state into two union territories - J&K and Ladakh.
Ensuingly, having been the target of one such campaign which saw a deviously doctored video of Republic Media Network's Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami being circulated by Pakistan’s cyber army, Republic TV sought answers from Twitter India as to why such handles are being allowed to proliferate fake-news that aims to be a detriment to India's national security and interests, and furthermore, why many such accounts are bestowed credibility by being given verification 'blue ticks'. However, Twitter India is yet to issue a clarification on the matter.
The handle that originally spread the fake spliced-and-diced video of Republic deleted it in an admission of its inauthenticity, but not before a number of usual suspects from Pakistan, some with a large reach, spread it widely on Twitter. Furthermore, these handles have since continued with their warmongering, spreading false reports of violence and firing hate-filled tweets heinously communalising matters. Here are two such handles - one belonging to a communal aide of Pakistan PM Imran Khan and the other, to an assault rifle-happy former Pak Army veteran-turned 'security analyst'.
Both Pakistani handles not only have a verified ‘blue tick’ but have been at the core of promoting hate and incitement against India vis-a-vis Kashmir.
Hamza Ali Abbasi, who is said to be extremely close to Imran Khan and is also a Pakistani film actor, has been consistently using his handle to stoke violence in Kashmir. With 2.2 million followers, Abbasi has used the platform to try and destabilize the peace and calm in Jammu and Kashmir and create disaffection within the boundaries of India. The very fact that Twitter continues to take no action against this handle, and possibly others who have significant reach, raises the question whether the social media platform is officially endorsing the hate mongering against India.
Meanwhile, Zaid Hamid who describes himself as a “ veteran of Soviet-Afghan war, presently National Security Analyst & founding Consultant BrassTacks ” on Twitter, has 2,88,000 followers on Twitter and is also a verified ‘blue tick’ handle. Hamid, located in Pakistan, like Abbasi has used his handle to circulate propaganda content as part of Pakistan’s information war at this critical juncture in Jammu and Kashmir.
The doublespeak of Twitter in not taking action against these handles shines through because Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey went to conferences saying he wants to break down the “fake news” phenomenon and stated that their “ job is to make sure it doesn’t spread. And our job is to make sure that it doesn’t gain in impressions beyond its earned reach”.
Beyond these handles, there are a number of suspicious and malicious social media campaigns that have trended on Twitter in recent days vis-a-vis trying to stoke tension in Jammu and Kashmir.
India's move to integrate Jammu and Kashmir, undertaken with deep precautions to ensure complete maintenance of peace and calm, has triggered something resembling a military-governmental panic in Pakistan. The Pakistan deep state has for decades relied on the 'Kashmir issue' to maintain an overwhelming domestic influence in the country. This becomes even more evident given that Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan's committee to formulate a "legal/political/diplomatic" response on developments in J&K include no less than three Pak Army-ISI officials, including the head of the ISI, the Pak Army DGMO, and the Pak military spokesperson.
Wide on-ground reporting from Jammu and Kashmir, ever since the revocation of Article 370, has reaffirmed the sentiment of normalcy in the Valley.
On Thursday, speaking to Republic Media Network, Lt General KJS Dhillion said, “every Kashmiri has been looked after” and assured that the on-ground security situation is “100% under control”.
Lt. General Dhillion also spoke about the preparedness of the Indian forces to respond to Pakistan and said, “in case Pakistan Army tries to violate ceasefire again, we will respond with full strength and hard”.
On the question on Information Warfare, Lt. General said that any kind of propaganda will have no impact and that India is and will counter it and tackle it successfully.
On Wednesday, visuals of National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval openly interacting with Kashmiris in Shopian, sharing a meal with them in broad daylight and on the streets conveyed a sense of normalcy in Jammu and Kashmir