A rather intriguing account has attracted considerable attention on micro-blogging site Twitter in the past few days. The account, which tweets under the username @shubhamrss01, has been making incendiary comments directed clearly to foment discord between North and South India. Apart from that, the account has also been making derogatory comments on women.
The pet issue that the account appears to have picked up is ‘Hindi imposition’. The account spreads hatred against South Indians and castigates them for their supposed preference for English over Hindi. It has also spread canards claiming that anyone who does not know Hindi is not a ‘true Indian’. Quite clearly, the account appears to fit into the stereotypical image of North Indians that a certain section of Dravidian political accounts want Tamilians to have.
In another tweet that has gained a lot of retweets on the social media platform, the account said that South Indians who refuse to learn Hindi should be expelled from the country and that he is confident that the Modi Sarkar will do so. In the same thread, he also called South Indians ‘monkeys’.
The person in the display picture of the account does not appear to be ‘Shubham Tripathi’. Instead, he appears to have been someone who went around commenting on the pictures and posts of female celebrities. One of his comments may have gone viral due to which he became a ‘meme’. In any case, it is pretty evident that it is a fake account.
For instance, @shubhamrss01 was not the original username of the account. The username that the account used prior to that is @dranjalimehta1 and on that account, the said person was anything but a ‘Modi Bhakt’. That it was the previous username of the same account is evident from the fact that when one search for the @dranjalimehta1 account on Twitter, the account that is thrown up is @shubhamrss01.
The tweets that the account had made under the female username is unfortunately not available. However, some that have been accessed by Twitter user @Vedic_Revival show that the account regularly tweeted misinformation about developments on the border with China as well as Pakistan. It was also against the Citizenship Amendment Act.
There is further incontrovertible evidence that the previous username of the account @shubhamrss01 was @DrAnjaliMehta1. We found that tweets from both these usernames have been archived on archive.org. In the archived web pages, we looked for the ‘data user id’ of both these usernames by viewing the page source of the archived pages.
There we discovered that both these usernames share the same numeric id which is unique and does not change even when an account changes its username. The numeric id for both these usernames is 1098606416259108875.
It is also pertinent to note that the account @shubhamrss01 alias @DrAnjaliMehta1 was formed in February 2019. He has since then changed his display picture to an image of Lord Ganesha and is no longer using the image of the man. As we know, February 2019 was the month of the Pulwama Terror Attack and the Balakot Airstrikes that followed it.
In its aftermath, numerous Pakistani ISI backed handles were created in order to fuel disinformation campaign in India and undermine the truth of what happened. It appears entirely plausible that before the @dranjalimehta1 username, the account tweeted under some completely different username. However, it appears relatively certain that the handle is geared towards spreading propaganda that could undermine India’s security.
There appears to be further evidence of the fact that the account was created with the sole purpose of spreading propaganda against India. The account appears to have gotten popular after a screenshot of its apparent conversation with an Israeli was shared by an Islamist on Twitter. The Islamist concerned was one of the accounts which was spearheading an effort to punish Hindus living in the Middle East under frivolous charges.
Also, as was discovered by user @Vedic_Revival, both the accounts in the screenshot probably share a single phone number that ends with the number 47. Thus, it could very well be that both accounts share the same phone number, operated by the same individual. This has led to speculation that the whole conversation was choreographed to paint Indians in poor light. Consequently, with regards to who choreographed it, it is only natural to suspect the account that shared the conversation first.
There is more evidence that the account is run by an Islamist. For instance, at one point of time, the Twitter bio of Shubham Tripathi claimed that he was an employee at the Lucknow branch of the Bank of Baroda. Therefore, naturally, when his obnoxious tweets went viral on the social media platform, people tagged the Twitter account of Bank of Baroda in their tweets and demanded action.
Things escalated to a point where the Bank of Baroda had to clarify that Twitter account of Shubham Tripathi did not belong to any of its staff. It is important to note that the Islamist behind the account attempted to target the Lucknow branch of the Bank of Baroda. It is intriguing certainly because not too long ago, one social media user who called himself ‘Afsaar bhai‘ said that ‘protests’ along the lines of the George Floyd riots in the United States should be carried out in India.
And ‘Afsaar bhai’ also presented himself as an employee at the Lucknow branch of the Bank of Baroda. Netizens had urged stringent action against the culprit and the Bank of Baroda had promised to investigate the matter and take stringent action. And now, the same branch appears to be the target of an Islamist running a fake account.
Dear Sir, The Bank hereby confirms that the said twitter handle does not belong to any staff member of Bank of Baroda.— Bank of Baroda (@bankofbaroda) August 11, 2020
Thus, quite clearly, a nefarious attempt appears to be underway to fan communal tensions in the country and create divisions within the country on the basis of regional divides. There is enough evidence to suggest that the account is being run by an Islamist in order to fuel strife within India. The manner in which the account has gained such traction within such a short period of time raises eyebrows as well.
Furthermore, as to the possible identity of the individual(s) running the account, the primary suspect should naturally be the Islamist account that made it so popular by sharing the screenshot of an obviously choreographed conversation. It is also important to note that the same Islamist account was part of a collective effort to jeopardise the safety and security of Hindus living in the Middle East.
Thus, it is of paramount importance that the Indian intelligence agencies take note of such entities that appear to be working over time to undermine the security and integrity of India and fan communal tensions on the basis of region. There appears to be a nexus that is working to fan such sentiments, which requires urgent intervention.