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'New situation emerging in India'

Last updated on: August 28, 2012 21:48 IST

Government plans to appoint Cybersecurity Coordinator, reports Nikhil Lakshman.

"What happened in Azad Maidan (the sudden riot in Mumbai on August 11 that targeted the police and the media) was new, and we need to find new ways of dealing with such situations," a government official told Rediff.com on Tuesday.

Disagreeing with this reporter's description that conditions in some parts of India -- Bareilly, Mumbai… -- were akin to a communal tinderbox, the official said such terms belonged to the past and were no longer applicable to the new situation that had emerged.

"In any case," he said, "the last few years have been among the most peaceful since Independence."

But there is an new situation emerging, he added, "a combination of several factors -- aspirations, local politics, ethnic identities, religion. Add to this the Internet and we have a situation that worries us and which we have been looking at for some time."

In response to a question from another journalist, the government official did not believe that one criminal mind was responsible for the millions of SMS messages or Facebook posts that were circulated earlier this month leading to an exodus of northeasterners from cities like Bengaluru.

"Certainly, some people saw opportunity, had bad intentions, and posted old images, images that were photoshopped, from the tsunami, from years past which upset some emotionally disturbed people."

The Central Bureau of Investigation, he said, had been asked to find out if a conspiracy had been involved in instigating the SMS-inspired exodus, but added, "I can't say a Mother Brain was working."

"There are no 100% answers", he said, to the security issues posed by individuals who want to create trouble using the Internet. "It is anarchy out there."

The official said the government was not blaming the government of Pakistan for the troublesome images posted on the Internet. "From our calculation, between 26% to 28% of the images were uploaded in Pakistan," he said, "but we are not saying the Pakistani government is responsible."

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will not raise this issue with Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari when they meet on the rim of the Non Aligned Summit in Tehran on Thursday.

"We cannot block 1,000 pages of a Web site," the official said, "when only some pages are a problem. Most service providers, when the problem is pointed to them, cooperate when we show it to them. Most people have the same standards of decency."

In response to an inquiry from Rediff.com, the official revealed that there is a proposal to appoint a Cybersecurity Coordinator in the National Security Secretariat so that detection of provocative material on the Internet can be detected before it stokes any violence.

"Who it will be is not decided," he said, adding that "it is not a job that one person can do," and is something that must involve the public as well to ensure that such a situation does not reoccur.

Asked by another journalist about the Pakistan government's equation of the 26/11 attacks and the 2006 blast aboard the Samjhauta Express, the official said, "it is clear that there is a difference in how the Indian State reacts and how the Pakistani State fails to react and even works with these (terror) groups."

"We have shown in (the) Mumbai (attacks) connections back in Pakistan not only with non-State actors, but also up the official hierarchy. The Indian State has gone after the people behind the Samjhauta blasts."

"With the same evidence, in a free trial, in open court," he added, "we got a conviction ( in the 26/11 attacks case). They keep changing their judges, allow the accused to use mobiles in prison…"

"The evidence available to us was available to them too," he added. "There are no two sides to this. You cannot equate a terrorist with a victim."

The government, the official felt, had made it "impossible for the terrorists to hit us… India is much safer than it was four years ago."

Nikhil Lakshman in Tehran