Sensing an opportunity to foment anti-India hatred in the backdrop of New Delhi-Ottawa tension, Pakistan’s ISI has taken to social media and information highway in a big way, employing special teams that produce reels and songs in Punjabi with the aim of spreading fake news about the “ill-treatment of Sikhs in India”.
Sources in the Indian security set-up said that the ISI’s Khalistan toolkit involves the creation of about three dozen social media accounts—including those on WhatsApp, FB, Instagram, X—using its own agents spread across Pakistan and spreading false information about India and generate global support for “Khalistan” separatists.
Though the creators of these accounts are based in Pakistan, the followers of these accounts are Sikhs across the globe, said an official, adding that the names of accounts chosen by ISI’s cyber army are such that these do not evoke the suspicion of unsuspecting Sikh devotees and believers.
Some of the social media accounts go by the names, Sikh Youth (WhatsApp account in Karachi), Sikh Community (FB account in Lahore) and Panth Prakash (WhatsApp account in Faisalabad). These accounts are regularly used for spreading false information about so-called atrocities against Sikhs in India.
The attempt by ISI’s anti-India cyber hate army is to attract sympathisers for the “Khalistan” cause and project India in a bad light. Some of the Pakistani cities from where such social media accounts have been activated include Rawalpindi, Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, Faisalabad and Abbottabad.
On social media platform X, the anti-India content is being uploaded from at least four accounts. These are @1984tribute, @realsikh786, @khalistanzindabad786 and @babbarkhalsa1910, said officials, adding that two of these accounts were created in Karachi, while one was created with Islamabad antecedents.
On Instagram, the ISI-supported anti-India accounts go by the names, Khalistani_fouj, Khalsa_warrior, Khalistani_pride and We Stand with Khalistan.
Interestingly, at a recent anti-terror conference organised by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) cyber security experts, including those from Indian Cybercrime Coordination Centre (I4C), flagged the use of social media accounts for pushing anti-India content.
During one session on “Digital Forensics and Data Analytics”, delegates from Karnataka, DFSS, NCRB, NATGRID, BSF, I4C shared their experiences and showed the way forward on aspects of terror investigations, besides use of platforms/modules such as Integrated Monitoring of Terrorism (iMOT), NATGRID and the National Terrorism Database, the NIA said.
The NIA and all Anti-Terror Squads (ATS) and counter terrorism units of all states also resolved to intensify the coordinated effort by all the central and state intelligence, security and law enforcement agencies to counter the threat of terrorism, with focus on dismantling the entire ecosystem of terror and choking of terror funding.
The key directions given by Home Minister Amit Shah at the event included designing a common training module, multidimensional use of the various national databases to investigate, prosecute, and prevent crimes, innovative measures to counter terrorism, sharing of good practices, international cooperation and challenges like crypto, hawala, terror-funding, organised crime syndicates, and narco-terror links. He said that all anti-terrorism agencies must adopt such a ruthless approach so that a new terrorist organisation cannot be formed.