Northeast exodus: Guilty must be punished, says Sonia Gandhi
New Delhi: UPA chairperson and Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Sunday warned of swift action against people behind the violence in Assam and those "spoiling" harmony in the wake of the exodus of Northeast Indians in some states. "What is happening to Northeast Indians is shameful. The guilty should be punished," she said.
Sonia said the country belonged to all Indians and that they have a right to live in any part of the country. She also expressed concern on Assam violence and said, "Whatever happened in Assam is a matter of great sorrow and concern. Legal action should happen swiftly against those responsible for the incident, whoever they are."
She was addressing a ceremony to confer the 20th Rajiv Gandhi National Sadbhawana Award in New Delhi in which Prime Manmohan Singh was present along with his senior cabinet colleagues and party leaders. The award with a citation and Rs 5 lakh cash was given to DR Mehta, the founder of Bhagwan Mahaveer Vikalang Sahayata Samiti.
"All sections of the society should come together to create such an atmosphere. This is true service of humanity," she said noting that the situations that have arisen in the country today are the one related to social unity and harmony.
"If we look at the history since Independence, the biggest challenge before the country has always come from those elements, who are enemies of social harmony and unity. Those, who have faced these elements and fought with them are the true warriors and in present circumstances, I consider only them true patriots," Sonia said.
"The Centre and state governments should take stern action against those disturbing social harmony," she said on Assam violence and exodus of Northeast Indians.
The Congress president said late Rajiv Gandhi always fought against social communal tensions, violence and and hatred and sacrificed his life fighting them.
The Prime Minister said that Rajiv Gandhi knew very well that India can progress only when all the countrymen can live together with peace, tolerance and harmony.
Meanwhile, the panic among Indians from Northeast seems to have subsided as the sale of train and air tickets has come down.
Lesser crowds were also seen in the Guwahati-bound trains from Mumbai and Bangalore. Officials in Mumbai said there were a few empty seats in the Guwahati Express. The Bangalore railway station also saw lesser crowds.
However, over 30,000 Indians from the Northeast have already left Bangalore after rumours of retaliatory attacks after Assam violence spread in the city.
The Karnataka government is keeping a close watch on the law and order situation in the state. Five companies of paramilitary force and the state police conducted flag march in areas where Northeast Indians are in majority - Austin Town, Audugodi and Koramangala.
Helpline numbers have been set up by the Manipur government at the Guwahati station: 9435118534, 9435554909, 9436017654, 940145150. Helplines have also been set up for students and people from Arunachal Pradesh: 9864016193, 9435114076, 9854491360.
The Centre has also issued directions to all Internet service providers to disable any hateful content targetting the Northeast Indians. Bulk SMSes and MMSes have also been banned for 15 days to contain panic.
Home Secretary RK Singh on Saturday said that morphed images circulated online that were responsible for creating panic among Northeast Indians in some southern states originated in Pakistan.
Pakistan has, however, rejected the allegation saying RK Singh's statement is "careless."
On Sunday, Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde called up Pakistan Interior Minister Rehman Malik and sought his cooperation in checking misuse of social networking sites hurting communal sentiments in India. Malik in response said that if India can produce evidence proving the rumours originated in Pakistan, they will surely take action.
(With additional information from PTI)
Exodus of northeast people: Eight Pakistani sites identified for spreading rumours
NEW DELHI:With investigations into the cyber warfare unleashed by religious fundamentalists from across the border identifying eight sites from where the bulk of the fake photos and stories about purported atrocities on Muslims were circulated, home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde talked to his Pakistani counterpart Rehman Malik on Sunday and sought action against these elements.
Shinde, while exchanging Eid greetings over the phone, sought Malik's cooperation in checking and neutralizing elements circulating fake pictures and stories through social media to whip up communal sentiments in India. This was the first direct contact between the two leaders.
Shinde's concerns were based on a 43-page report prepared by intelligence agencies along with National Technical Research Organization (NTRO) and India Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-IN) that has traced several doctored images to Pakistan.
Agencies have also zeroed in on a particular Pakistan-based hardline group that is suspected to have organized the false propaganda as part of what the government suspects to be an organized destabilization effort.
A senior official in the security establishment said agencies had by Sunday afternoon identified at least eight sites, all with origins in Pakistan, which were at the forefront of circulation of the hate material. "CERT-IN is trying to block them after formal approval from the government," he said.
"From all available forensic evidence, we are fairly convinced that all those postings came from Pakistan," the official said. Till late on Sunday, NTRO investigators were combing through internet to see if the postings were mushrooming elsewhere.
While work is on to track some 110 sites and postings, it may take some time to trace all of them as in some cases, especially in the case of Facebook, tracking the IP address to ascertain where a post was created needs the company management's cooperation. However, the identical nature (in terms of language, design and images) of several of these posts points to the fact that they were all drafted at one place.
Sources said several other fundamentalist organizations in Pakistan were under the scanner for having participated in this hate campaign. Although there is no concrete evidence yet of the effort being state-sponsored, radical organizations in Pakistan have close links with the establishment and have frequently been its proxies.
Most of the online content started getting posted from July 13 and fake profiles were created for spreading morphed pictures, according to the home ministry report prepared in the wake of mass exodus of the northeast Indians from Bangalore, Pune, Chennai and Mumbai following rumours about possible attacks on them.
"Pictures have been taken from different places such as Tibet earthquake, Thailand etc and most of the fake profiles have been created since end of July," said an official quoting the report.
A senior official involved in India's Pakistan watch for several years said the trend of the last few days wasn't an isolated development, but a wake up call that the attempt at destabilization may involve new weapons including rumours designed to cause communal tension. "It has been happening for several months now. This is a low cost, very effective way of destabilizing us," he said.
"They don't need to send terrorists and explosives to create mayhem. Internet has been a very effective platform for instigating communal divisions in India. They also have a multiplier effect, first resulting in anger and hatred, then riots and, finally, many taking to terrorism," he added.
The home ministry report which has put Pakistan in the dock also touches upon activities originating from India. It notes that social media, e-mails, Internet chat rooms and VoIP calls were rampantly being used to spread disinformation and rumours to provoke unrest in Assam and other parts of the country.
"These unidentified Muslim extremists are waging an online campaign after the outbreak of violent clashes in Myanmar between Buddhists and Muslims. They are using the Internet and its social media sites for the dissemination of exaggerated accounts of the violence in Assam and for re-circulating fabricated evidences to inflame the passions of Muslims in different parts of India during the fasting period of Ramzan," the report said.
Meanwhile, agencies are tracking if those spreading rumours through SMSes are linked to some fundamentalist organizations. "SMSes have all originated from India. But different groups are fishing in troubled waters. Both Muslim and Hindu fundamentalists are under the scanner," an official said.
However, by Sunday evening, home ministry sources the situation report from various parts of the country spoke of noticeable improvement in the ground situation. On Saturday and Sunday, there were no special trains to the northeast, and the number of northeast residents fleeing from Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra dropped significantly.
North-east exodus: Pakistan rejects Indian charges
The Times of India
NEW DELHI: Pakistan on Sunday rejected Indian charges that morphed pictures of Assam and Myanmar violence which sparked an exodus of north-eastern citizens from other states originalted in Pakistan.
Such remarks only widen the trust deficit between the two countries, sources in the Pakistan High Commission here said.
Home Secretary R.K. Singh said on Saturday that the bulk of rumours of imminent attacks on northeastern people for the killings of Muslims in Assam originated in Pakistan.
The rumours forced thousands to flee Karnataka, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu.
The Pakistani sources said these were "cooked up" charges.
"Instead of indulging in mud-slinging and blame game, it's time for India to address its internal issues," the source told IANS. "Such comments only widen the trust deficit."
Singh had said India would take up the issue with Pakistan. "I am certain they will deny our information but our technical team is very certain of the information it has gathered," he said.
The government on Saturday said the bulk SMSes and MMSes that triggered panic among the north-eastern people had been traced to Pakistan and a protest would be lodged with Islamabad.
“Pakistan is trying to create trouble by inciting people… This exposes its attempt at cyber warfare against India,” said Union Home Secretary RK Singh.
In the MMSes, those who died in cyclone Nargis in Myanmar were shown as victims of the Assam violence. “Seventy-six websites were identified with morphed images. Most of these were uploaded in Pakistan,” Singh said.
The home secretary said the details would be provided to the external affairs ministry so that it could take up the matter with Pakistan.
The home ministry has banned close to 100 websites for carrying objectionable material and arrested one person to find source of the doctored MMS clips and SMSes.
The MHA has also asked Google to provide the IP address and other details of the ID from where the doctored photographs were circulated.
Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi has said that a probe will be instituted to find out facts regarding alleged involvement of foreign hands in the recent Assam violence. "From the beginning, I have stated that some foreign hands are involved. It is not merely a clash between Bodos and minorities. The Union Home Ministry report that Pakistani elements were involved has vindicated our stand," Gogoi told PTI.
"We will institute a probe to find out details regarding the involvement of foreign elements in the violence," he added. — IANS, PTI
Northeast exodus: Govt blocks 80 Internet pages, user-accounts
Government is learnt to have ordered blocking of 80 more Internet pages and user-accounts on Sunday on social networking sites including Facebook, Google and Twitter to avoid panic among people of northeastern region living across India.
All these sites were found hosting inflammatory and hateful content, spreading rumours and inciting violence targeting the people from northeast, government sources said.
On Saturday, the government had issued instructions to block 76 Internet sites, which included web-pages and some websites, and had said that bulk of the rumours that triggered panic among people of North-eastern states in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra were sourced from Pakistan.
"We have found inflammatory and objectionable contents on some pages of Facebook and Google. Some user-accounts at Twitter were also found spreading similar contents. All together, around 80 such pages and accounts have been ordered to be blocked today," the sources said.
The rumours about a possible attacks have led to mass exodus of people from northeast from many places including Bangalore, Chennai, Mumbai and Pune.
Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde on Sunday asked his Pakistani counterpart Rehman Malik to crackdown on elements based in that country that were using social media networking sites to whip up communal sentiments and spreading hate in India.
According to a report prepared by the Home Ministry, a Pakistan-based hardline group is suspected to have been involved in doctoring images and spreading them across social networking sites to create panic among people of northeastern region living across India.