Fight propaganda war in North-East

The current situation created through doc-tored MMS/SMS are a leaf out of Kautilyas Arthashastra.

Assam is India’s gateway to the North East. The geo-political importance of Assam in the National Security Strategy of India is apparently neither understood nor factored appropriately by our national security strategists.

The state has been facing insurgency on account of ethnical assault by illegal immigrants from Bangladesh since Independence. Despite the Rajiv Gandhi Assam Accord of 1985, successive governments have come and gone without implementing the accord. Virtually no deportation took place and infiltration continued unabated. The political parties have been lacking in commitment towards the nation’s safety and security.

The ethnic landscape of various districts of Assam closest to the international border, starting with Dhubri, Kokrajhar, Bongaigaon, Barpeta and even Nalbari has changed dramatically over the years. The pressure caused by the illegal settlers on the land owned by the tribals and the original residents of Assam coupled with their political clout created an explosive amalgam that has been the cause of  many communal conflagrations in the past.  

The people of Assam and Kokrajhar in particular have suffered from riots and the consequent violence for a long time. The Bodos, who constituted the largest tribe of Assam with a large concentration in Kokrajhar, felt neglected, exploited and frustrated. The fear of their being reduced to a minority in their own land led to their agitation to seek autonomy, in the 1960s.

The area witnessed large scale riots and violence in 1993, 1994, 1996 and 1998. With the Bodo Accord of 2003, the Bodo Liberation Tiger, an important faction of militant Bodo organisation surrendered. Consequently, the Bodo Territorial Council (BTC) was formed and Bodoland Territorial Areas District (BTAD) delineated. Despite the formation of BTC, the pressure of outside settlers on the tribal land continued unabated.

Illegally acquired land

The current violence in Kokrajhar has its roots in the continuing struggle between the Bodos and the outside settlers. The Bodos resent the fact that they have been reduced to a meagre 25 per cent of the population in their own land. The non-Bodos want their majority areas to be taken out, while the Bodos argue that the settlers have illegally acquired their land by bribing the corrupt officials. Notwithstanding the complexities of Kokrajhar, the current violence in this strategically important region has generated ripples of across India. There is a sense of insecurity amongst thousands of North-East people living in various parts of the country.

A peaceful rally against the Assam riots in Mumbai suddenly took a violent turn.  Cities like Pune, Hyderabad and Bangalore witnessed exodus of people of North-East. Circulation of doctored MMS/SMS created fear psychosis amongst them, leading to the exodus.

The developments are a harbinger of ominous clouds on the national security. The states of Manipur, Nagaland and even Tripura have been facing insurgency. The Garo Hills of Meghalaya have been frequented by insurgents. With China eyeing Arunachal Pradesh, the strategic importance of Assam in the National Security of India needs no emphasis.
The current riots and their ripple effects throw open a few pertinent questions. Who could have strategised these, which also target India’s economy and the national security? Are the doctored MMS/SMS and false images on Social Media, part of an insidious design targeting the unity and integrity of our nation? Is this an Information Warfare Attack on the country? Does the country have a national strategy or expert resources to take counter measures against Information Attacks of even bigger magnitude?

The current situation created through the doctored MMS/SMS and falsified images on Social Media are a leaf out of Kautilya’s Arthashastra wherein he said, “An arrow may or may not kill but an idea can even kill in a womb”. It is an innovative and economical application of technology in an attempt to destabilise India.

Information warfare is an American concept which came into fore during the 1991 Gulf War. It is a skilful use of information about the enemy aimed to demoralise the adversary’s populace and the defence forces through propaganda/rumour mongering; using information technology and social media as the force-multiplier.

India has its Information Warfare Centres in place but the moot question is that are we ready to take on such tasks with real-time speed and alacrity. If the answer is yes, then why our Intelligence Agencies have had no warning of the developments in Mumbai and the MMS/SMS creating panic situation. Obviously, we have not kept pace with time. Our intelligence agencies and the national security strategists have to generate capability for execution and countering Information Warfare, a twenty first century bomb with unprecedented destructive power, to safeguard the safety and security of our nation.  

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