India blocks several sites amid northeast exodus crisis

Government moves to block over 250 sites said to contain content doctored to incite Muslim retaliation on people originating from India's northeast, which spurred frenzied exodus of the latter.
Written by Jamie Yap, Contributor on

The Indian government has ordered the blocking of more than 250 Web sites which allegedly contained images and videos doctored to incite retaliation attacks from Muslims, triggering a frenzied exodus of people originally from northeastern regions.

The Press Trust of India (PTI) reported Monday the Home Ministry already blocked over 130 Web sites and more will be shut down in efforts to stem "erring" portals, while thousands across India attempted to flee back to the country's northeast.

The Indian government suspects a hardline group based in Pakistan was involved in doctoring the content and spreading it across social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube--an assertion Pakistan had rejected, PTI said in a separate report.

According to the news agency, the content aimed to inflame Muslims to target people of northeastern origins living across India in retaliation of recent ethnic violence in Assam, causing panic among these residents. Over the weekend, rumors of possible attacks sparked a mass exodus of people working in cities such as Bangalore, Pune, Chennai and Mumbai to flee back to their homes.

Last Friday, India announced a 15-day ban of bulk SMS and MMS messaging services in light of rumors people from the northeast would be attacked on Aug. 20, a day after the Muslim holiday of Eid (or Hari Raya Aidilfitri).

Times of India report today reported the Indian government was told by social media sites they were unable to remove the content or take action against those who uploaded it as they operated outside the jurisdiction of India. This prompted the government to seek help from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to track down the origins of the Web pages hosted on U.S. servers which contained the offensive content.

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