India PM warns of dangers of social media

2012-09-08 15:44

New Delhi - Indian Premier Manmohan Singh warned on Saturday over the use of social media to inflame ethnic tensions after online threats and text messages sparked a mass exodus of migrants from southern cities.

The use of "social media to aggravate the communal situation is a new challenge", Singh told a conference of senior police officials in New Delhi.

"We need to fully understand how these new media are used by miscreants... and devise strategies to counter the propaganda that is carried out by these new means," he said.

Tens of thousands of migrant workers and students from India's northeast fled last month from the high-tech centre of Bangalore and other southern cities.

The unprecedented exodus was triggered by inflammatory text messages and videos posted online which warned that Muslims would target them in reprisal for deadly clashes between the tribals and Muslims in remote Assam state.

The government imposed a two-week ban on bulk messages that ended in late August and blocked some Internet pages to halt the spread of incendiary material that could fuel tensions.

Ethnic clashes in India's northeastern state of Assam between the Bodo tribals and Muslims have claimed around 90 lives and prompted some 400 000 people to take refuge in camps.

India is a hugely diverse nation which prizes a reputation for secular tolerance but where ethnic and religious tensions often simmer beneath the surface.

The use of the text messages and videos posted online to stir up fears have been deeply alarming to Indian authorities.

Singh also spoke of "increasing infiltration attempts" by Pakistan-based militants into Indian Kashmir and across India's international border with Pakistan as the South Asian rivals held peace talks in Islamabad.

The warning came as Indian Foreign Minister S M Krishna was on a three-day visit to Pakistan, where he was to hold talks with his Pakistani counterpart Hina Rabbani Khar.

Last year, the nuclear-armed rivals resumed a tentative peace process that had collapsed after Islamist gunmen from Pakistan entered the coastal city of Mumbai by sea and killed 166 people in 2008.

While violence in Indian Kashmir has declined, militants are "maintaining their ability to use the sea route" to launch an attack against India, Singh warned.

India and Pakistan have fought three wars since independence in 1947, two of them over Kashmir. Each of them hold part of the Himalayan region but claim it in full.

  • gieljam.gomtor - 2012-09-08 17:15

    Governments are largely to blame

  • sachasea - 2012-09-08 17:30

    I see that there is no mention of the benefits of social media. Social media can be used as a force for good, at least as much if not more, as it can be for bad. People use it for good all the time. More blanket regulation and censorship would simply curtail peoples effectiveness to promote peace. We need to counter negativity wherever we find it and the internet is an invaluable tool in doing so.

  • hermann.hanekom - 2012-09-08 17:31

    What a mess the world is in thanks to religion - they can work the internet, but they are still barbarians in a so called civilised world.

  • hannah.p.mostert - 2012-09-08 21:38

    Wow Islam finds peace with everyone! I wonder what those peace loving Indians have done to provoke the wrath of Islam? Surely just being alive would be enough to provoke a muslim

      zaatheist - 2012-09-09 10:19

      You have heard of the Hindu religion, right? Militant Hindus who also kill Muslims from time to time? It is all about religion, imaginary gods and preachermen spreading hatred. All religions preach hatred for those who are different, those who worship different gods, or those who worship the same gods, differently.

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