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Pak-backed Khalistani separatists launch bot army on Twitter to breed hatred against India

Khalistani separatists targeted Indian consulate in San Francisco (US) on March 20

A network of bots run by supporters of the pro-Khalistan Sikhs for Justice and virtual activists in Pakistan appear to have teamed up to foment attacks inside India and abroad following after New Delhi had launched a manhunt to nab separatist fugitive Amritpal Singh.

The Washington Post is reporting citing the Network Contagion Research Institute (NCRI) that pro-Khalistani elements after the Amritpal affair have been using multiple account networks that are inter-linked. The purpose is to trend tweets that incite violence inside India as well as against diplomatic missions, temples among others abroad.

The NCRI captured many tweets that urged protesters to gather or take unspecified direct action against strategic assets such as power plants and train tracks. One video credited to SFJ that has been widely circulated shows damage to a railway track that led to Guru Hargobind Thermal Plant in Bathinda.

The NCRI found 359 accounts that have driving the campaign since January. Networks of 20 to 50 accounts are usually used to push messages or videos, many of them featuring the founder of U.S.-based SFJ, Gurpatwant Singh Pannun. Each account would then relay the tweet dozens of times, tagging different journalists and other public figures to build visibility, the WaPo report said.

As expected, the Pakistan angle also features in the WaPo report. The daily points out that around 20 percent of the accounts identified as part of the Twitter networks claim to be located inside Pakistan. Some of them have, in fact, tweeted that Sikhs should be thankful for Pakistan or in support of one of the major Pakistani political parties.

“Involvement by a self-identified Pakistani network of putative SFJ supporters thus suggests not just bot-like activity but raises the possibility of a broader effort for covert influence,” the NCRI wrote. “The fact that this network of self-identified Pakistani accounts amplifies attacks against Hindu houses of worship, agitates for terror and attacks Indian consulates, aligns well with Pakistani strategic interests.”

Chief Operating Officer of NCRI Jack Donohue was quoted as saying that, “When you look at the escalation and the intensity of the rhetoric, and how that precedes the events in the real world that result in vandalism or violence, that’s where the concern is.”

Of late there has been a spurt of attacks, which include vandalization of the Indian consulate in San Francisco by Khalistani supporters. In London, an attempt was made to replace the Indian national flag with a Khalistani flag as the Indian High Commission building.

Also Read: Watch: India supporters gather in strength in London outside Indian High Commission to negate Khalistani narrative