The Centre for Information Resilience (CIR) has exposed a network of fake profiles of Sikh influencers created to target the farmer protests in India as well as the Khalistan movement.
The CIR report — titled ‘Analysis of the #RealSikh Influence Operation‘ — identified a core network of fake accounts that targeted “other accounts supportive of Indian nationalism in order to spread and amplify the content and narratives generated by the core network”.
The aim of the network appears to have been to “alter perceptions on important issues around Sikh independence, human rights and values”, according to the report’s author, Benjamin Strick.
There is no evidence linking this network directly with the Indian government, which has yet to respond to a BBC request for comment.
Some of the fake network’s messaging included statements calling for action such as Indian “Nationalists shouldn’t remain watching silently” and that they “need to counter and expose them [the Khalistani movement for Sikh independence]” to “save India” from “Pakistan, Canada, UK, and US”
Many high-profile accounts were found to be involved in focused targeting of Sikhs For Justice’s General-Counsel Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, who is running the Khalistan Referendum campaign for the separation of Punjab from India. All these accounts that published Pannun’s cartoon memes called him a Pakistani agent, fake Sikh and enemy of India and Sikhs.
One user tweeted Narendra Modi, kicking Pannun while he’s running away. The tweet read: “The reply of a #RealSikh to the #FakeSikh Pannun. Dear Pannu, there is no place for Khalistan and no Sikh wants Khalistan
The BBC published the report on an exclusive basis and said that there is no evidence linking this network directly with the Indian government, but it’s believed that such tactics are applied routinely by the BJP government to influence minds and previously hundreds of accounts have been suspended for being involved in coordinated activity against Sikhs, Pakistan and dissenting Indian voices.