Thursday, December 7, 2023

Khalistan’s New Age Propaganda on Social Media Platforms

by Antariksh Singh

In an era dominated by social media narratives, it seems separatist sentiments and ideologies are trying hard to find a new life. A case in point is the Khalistan separatist movement. A DFRAC report elucidates a trend of online aggression, support for Khalistan, and a pernicious drive to spread hatred and incite violence — primarily fueled by Pakistani social media users.

First, there is an interesting contradiction to ponder. Pakistan, which has always projected itself as a champion of the Kashmiri cause, seems keen to promote the Khalistan movement. This duplicity comes to the fore as Pakistani celebrities and social media users advocate for a separate Khalistan embassy, even when there’s no legitimate Khalistani state recognized worldwide. It’s rather ironic that Pakistan supports one separatist movement in India while suppressing its own Baloch and Sindhi independence movements.

Secondly, the persona of Sahar Shinwari, supposedly an actress and a social worker, stands as a testament to how digital platforms can be used to foster disruptive ideologies. Her call to the Pakistani Foreign Minister to formally launch a Khalistan Embassy in Islamabad amplifies the intent of such users. While she has every right to voice her opinions, one must question the motive behind such tweets. Why would someone from Pakistan be so fervently involved in a cause pertaining to Punjab, India?

The case of Indian cricketer Arshdeep Singh stands out as an instance of online bullying. Tagging a sportsperson with political labels based on their faith not only reeks of prejudice but also undermines the spirit of sportsmanship.

Further, the sudden surge in the creation of pro-Khalistan accounts is alarming. The numbers — 150 new accounts in March 2023 alone — signal a well-coordinated effort to inject this ideology into the digital space. For what purpose, one might ask? To bring about a rebirth of a movement that saw its peak decades ago, or to stoke embers of discord in the Indian diaspora?

Physical threats and assaults, like the ones on Punjab CM Bhagwant Mann’s family, Indian journalist Lalit K. Jha, and the British Sikh couple, make one wonder: are these just isolated incidents or symptomatic of a larger, more nefarious design? These actions are not only appalling but also indicative of the sheer intolerance displayed by Khalistani hardliners.

While social media platforms are essential tools for free expression and connectivity, their misuse for inciting hatred and perpetuating outdated ideologies is a concern. The Khalistan movement, as presented on social media, seems less about the rights of the Sikh community and more about a self-serving campaign, with a vendetta-driven agenda against India. It’s crucial that social media platforms and governments come together to curtail the spread of such divisive ideologies and ensure that they don’t cross the boundary from the digital realm to real-life violence, as has been the case of late in countries like Canada, the UK and the US.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of Khalsa Vox or its members.

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