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India Accuses Pakistani Websites Of Inciting Panic


India's government has persuaded companies to shut down more than 150 websites. Authorities blame those sites for circulating claims that led to panic. The claims fueled fears of violence during the Muslim festival of Eid. NPR's Julie McCarthy reports.

JULIE MCCARTHY, BYLINE: The panic-stricken hail from India's isolated northeastern states. By the thousands, they fled their schools and jobs in urban centers such as Bangalore and Hyderabad for the security of their home states. Rumors swirled online late last week of imminent attacks against them.

The cyber campaign appeared aimed at inflaming Muslim passions against northeasterners during the month of Ramadan. The sites threatened violence in retaliation for the displacement of Muslims in the northeast state of Assam. The remote tea-producing region that borders China, Bangladesh and Burma witnessed fierce clashes last month between Muslims and a mostly Hindu tribal group. It began as a fight for land. India's leaders fear it may turn into a larger struggle for identity and faith.

The offending websites exaggerated the violence in Assam. Delhi said it traced them to Pakistan and suspects hard-line militants there abusing social media to whip up communal violence in India. Pakistan requested evidence. On this Eid, meanwhile, tight security has blanketed major Indian cities.

Julie McCarthy, NPR News, New Delhi. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Julie McCarthy has spent most of career traveling the world for NPR. She's covered wars, prime ministers, presidents and paupers. But her favorite stories "are about the common man or woman doing uncommon things," she says.