India compiling Pakistan link proof, over 250 websites blocked
Ahead of External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna's visit to Islamabad, the government Monday decided to step up inter-ministerial consultations to compile evidence on the alleged Pakistan origin of the morphed images of Assam violence and blocked over 250 websites for orchestrating the online campaign of hatred.
Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai met Krishna and briefed him about the alleged role of Pakistan-based elements in using morphed images on internet that triggered an exodus of northeastern people from other states, government sources said.
It was decided that the external affairs ministry will await inputs from the home ministry before deciding on how to take up the issue with Pakistan, said the sources.
A final decision on presenting the evidence to Pakistan will be taken after inter-ministerial consultations, said the sources.
The government has ordered an investigation into the fake messages on social networking sites.
Krishna goes to Islamabad on a three-day visit Sep 7 for talks with Pakistani Foreign Miister Hina Rabbani Khar that will focus on reviewing the second round of dialogue that was revived early last year following a hiatus after the 2008 Mumbai terror attack.
The talks are expected to encompass all bilateral issues, including terrorism and Kashmir, and the recent issue of the morphed images is set to figure in the discussions.
Krishna is likely to take up the issue of morphed pictures as such incidents show that elements engaged in anti-India propaganda continue to be active in Pakistan, sources said.
During the talks, India is also set to highlight the activities of Hafiz Saeed, the alleged 26/11 mastermind, who continues to spout anti-India venom with impunity.
Such anti-India campaigns were not conducive to creating a healthy atmosphere for improved relations, said the sources.
Thousands of people from the northeast fled the states of Karnataka, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu last week after hate messages were spread through mobile phones and on Facebook, threatening retaliation for the ethnic violence in Assam last month.
Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said elements based in Pakistan used social networking websites to circulate morphed pictures to whip up communal tension in India. This was conveyed by Shinde to Pakistan's Interior Minister Rehman Malik during a telephonic conversation Sunday.
Islamabad rejected the charges and demanded evidence to prove it.
"The Indian minister has said that rumours were generated from Pakistan through cellular services," Malik told reporters in Islamabad while referring to his phone conversation with Shinde.
"I had requested him (Shinde) to provide evidence in this regard to us and we will take care of it," he added.
Against this backdrop, Indian authorities were compiling technical evidence with a view to presenting it to Pakistan, said the sources.
The consultations on presenting the evidence were still going on, said the sources, adding that the external affairs and home ministries are in touch on the issue.
Meanwhile, the government Monday blocked over 250 websites and blogs for uploading doctored videos and pictures. By Tuesday, around 275 such websites could be forced offline.
The Monday crackdown on websites follows a similar blocking of around 80 internet pages and user accounts spreading hate messages on a slew of social networking sites, including Facebook, Google and Twitter.
The sites were found to be containing hostile propaganda and rumours that sought to incite violence targeting the people from northeast and to whip up panic among them, the government sources said.
The government Saturday had ordered to block 76 internet sites, with Shinde saying that these sites were fed by elements in Pakistan to spark panic among people of northeastern states in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra.