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Psyjihad against NE people may recreate forgotten barriers

August 17, 2012 13:55 IST

In the psyjihad directed against the people from north-east, one sees the beginning of an insidious attempt to re-create the mental divide and drive a new wedge, says B Raman

What we have been seeing since May, 2012, is a proxy jihad through the Internet and modern means of communications such as the cell phone and I-pad, being waged by a new generation of unidentified IT-savvy jihadis.

It started in the Rakhine state of Myanmar, following violent clashes between some Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims, who are considered as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. The clashes resulted in nearly 80 fatalities from both communities and the internal displacement of a large number of Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims.

Following these clashes, a group of as yet unidentified Islamic elements, possibly based in the Myanmar-Bangladesh-India region, started a vicious campaign through the Internet and new social media sites for the demonisation of the Myanmar government and for promoting Islamic solidarity.

President Thein Sein of Myanmar was reported to have told a delegation of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, which visited Myanmar last week, that through the Internet and its social media sites, these elements circulated highly exaggerated reports of what they termed a 'genocide of Muslims' in Myanmar, with the help of morphed pictures of violent incidents in other countries.

This psyjihad was meant to destabilise not only Myanmar but also the Sheikh Hasina government of Bangladesh, which has refused to allow the Rohingyas to enter Bangladesh and use it as a base for their destabilisation operations in Myanmar.

One noticed a similar psyjihad being waged in India through the Internet and social media sites by a group of unidentified Muslim extremists after the outbreak of violent clashes between some Bodos and illegal immigrants from Bangladesh in Kokrajhar and other Bodo areas of Assam in July.

These elements used the Internet and social media sites for the dissemination of exaggerated accounts of the violence in Assam and for re-circulating the fabricated psyjihad material produced by or on behalf of the Rohingyas.

These sought to inflame the passions of impressionable Muslims in different parts of India during the holy fasting period of Ramzan. It resulted in incidents of shocking violence and vandalisation by some Muslims during and after a public meeting held in the Azad Maidan of Mumbai on August 5 to protest against the violent incidents in Assam and Myanmar.

Some Muslims incited to violence by the psyjihad material and the highly emotional speeches attacked policemen, including women members of the police, vandalised a memorial, attacked sections of the media and burnt down some media vehicles. While the anger of such incited Muslim extremist mobs against the police is nothing unusual, its anger against the media was.

Its rage against sections of the media was due to the fact that, in its view, the media did not give sufficient publicity to the psyjihad material produced by or on behalf of the Rohingyas.

After the Mumbai incident, which has been condemned by many leaders of the Muslim community, these unidentified elements have been directing their psyjihad against people from the north-east, who have been working in Pune, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Chennai in order to create feelings of insecurity in their minds and make them go back home.

There is an underlying message in this new phase of psyjihad that is directed at people from the north-east living and working in south India and Pune. The message is: "If the government does not regularise the illegal immigration of Bangladeshis to north-east, we will not allow people from the north-east to migrate to work in other parts of India."

One has to note that the psyjihad directed at the people from north-east is not based on their religion. Many of them are Christians and not Hindus. It is based on their right to migrate to other parts of India.

As a result of the feelings of insecurity created in the minds of people from the north-East in south India, many have already left for their homes, creating the danger of a fresh wave of communal violence when the displaced people of the north-east reach homr with their tales of how they were intimidated, resulting in their decision to come back home.

During the last 20 years, the mental divide between the people of north-east and those in the rest of India -- that had given rise to different insurgencies -- had disappeared. The insurgencies started losing public support and a large number of youngsters from the north-east had started identifying themselves with the rest of India.

Many of them migrated to other parts of India in search of jobs. They were welcomed by people in other parts of India. A process of natural integration between the people of north-east and other parts of India began.

In the psyjihad directed against the people from north-east, one sees the beginning of an insidious attempt to re-create the mental divide and drive a new wedge.

Unfortunately, one does not have the impression that our intelligence agencies and police have been able to keep pace with the evolution of the psyjihad being waged through the Internet, mobile phones and I-pads. One does not see signs of any coherent and co-ordinated attempt to counter and neutralise it, identify the elements behind this psyjihad and act against them firmly under the laws of the land.

In addition to neutralising this psyjihad, it is important to initiate urgent measures to restore the sense of security of the people from north-east by interacting with them continuously and vigorously and by providing them additional protection. The civil society too has an important role in this matter. This is the time to further strengthen our bonds of solidarity with them and reassure them that the civil society will stand by them.

All political parties should resist the urge, which could prove suicidal for the nation, to exploit these developments for their partisan advantage. This is the time for everybody to come together and unite against the new breed of extremists, who can turn out to be more dangerous than those of the past, who relied on improvised explosive devices for destabilising us.

B Raman