The diplomatic war between India and Pakistan over New Delhi scrappingJammu and Kashmir’s special status has spilled over into the cyber world, spawning a spate of fake social media accounts of Indian army officers.
At least 50 Twitter accounts masquerading as personal handles of senior generals and commanders including Chief of Army Staff General Bipin Rawat , Northern Army Commander Lieutenant General Ranbir Singh “highlighting alleged atrocities” in Kashmir were shut down at the request of the security agencies, said senior officials in the security apparatus who didn’t want to be named.
“In the past 6 days at least 69 of my Indian soldiers have been killed in unprovoked fire by Pakistan Army,” a fake Twitter handle allegedly that of a serving colonel serving in Jammu and Kashmir said.
Similarly, a fake Twitter account allegedly that of former Directorate General of Military Operations (DGMO) Lieutenant General Vinod Bhatia said, “according to my intelligence report there is more than 700 Kashmiri has been killed thousands of women were raped there is completely blackout, school colleges are closed. Shame on Us.”
Likewise, the Twitter handle of former Vice Chief of Army Staff Devraj Anbu said the removal of Article 370 was a big mistake.
Interestingly, a fake Twitter account allegedly of Lieutenant Colonel Shrikant Purohit who is an accused in the Malegaon blast case and is now out on bail also carries a tweet against the establishment.
Since August 5, there has been a sudden spike in the number of social media accounts, another senior official said. “These are part of the effort to shape the information environment,” he said.
On August 5, the Centre abrogated Article 370 that conferred special status to Jammu and Kashmir and split it into two union territories.
Intriguingly, some of the fake Twitter accounts were opened in months in advance but were dormant up till August 2019.
“An analysis shows a clear trend, some of these fake accounts posted normal humdrum stuff on and off. The credibility of the people behind the accounts ensured an organic growth in the number of followers. An account of serving colonel opened in July 2019 gathered over 1500 followers. After, August 5, these handles tried to saturate the environment with messages about atrocities in Jammu and Kashmir and Article 370,” a third senior official monitoring the cyber world said.
The assault in the cyber world has been so severe that New Delhi has tasked a team comprising security agencies and the military to monitor the cyber world for such messages and counter them. The messages from the fake accounts of well known individuals create doubt among the people at large, affect the morale of the nation and, at another level they affect the forces as well, said an officer associated with monitoring these messages.
“The removal of Article 370 has put the Pakistan Army in a spot which for the last 70 years has claimed to be the saviours of Kashmir. At another level, they have always used proxies whether in 1947, 1965 and 1999. The fake social media messaging is aimed at gaining moral ascendency over India by trying to create a fake narrative,” said Major General (Retd) Harsha Kakar.