Pak groups behind plot, similar cases also in IAF & Navy
Fake messages doing the rounds on social media and flooding chat groups of military officials, luring them to spread propaganda, is part of a misinformation campaign aimed at demoralising the ranks and creating fissures, armed forces have alerted intelligence agencies.
Sources said over 100 Army personnel, including officers, Junior Commissioned Officers (JCOs) and those of other ranks, are being investigated for violating social media guidelines and circulating false messages.
According to an initial analysis, Pakistani groups with their servers in Eastern European countries are suspected to be behind the conspiracy. With the trend on the rise, the Army has begun a crackdown to counter the propaganda.
"Most of the cases are nearing finality. All armed forces personnel found violating social media guidelines and circulating these fake messages will be punished exemplary as per military rules," said an official.
Similar cases have also been reported in the Air Force and the Navy.
Sources said officials in most of these cases fell for the trap and shared the false information assuming it to be correct without doing any checks.
According to the social media guidelines, military personnel should not be any different in their conduct online and must stick to protocols that they follow in their other day-to-day working.
Chat groups of military personnel are flooded with intruders, according to sources. "There are random links being circulated... clicks on them have the sender automatically accepted in groups. This indicates that the intruder wants to track communication. There are hundreds of such cases," said a source in the security establishment.
"After a series of fake letters and messages surfaced regularly, armed forces alerted central intelligence agencies. This seems to be a well-planned mission to track communication and also spread propaganda," the official added.
One recent fake letter of the Indian Army circulated widely stated that the motivation and will to fight was at an all-time low, attributing it to several welfare issues, discrimination, manhandling and homosexuality. The letter was signed by a brigadier-rank officer and dated October 29, 2017.
The Army tweeted on November 18 that a fake letter masquerading to be of Indian Army is being circulated on WhatsApp. The copy of the letter with "FAKE LETTER" in red was also posted.
This is not the only such instance recently. News of a mutiny in a Territorial Army battalion and a serving officer being arrested with Rs 5 crore also did the rounds and were found to be false.
There have been a series of letters and communications on the sensitive issue of pay parity in the armed forces that were found to be incorrect have also been circulated.
Another misinformation regarding the retiring age of colonel-rank officers being increased from 57 to 54 was also spread.
Sources said although Pakistani groups are suspected to be responsible for this, the probe is not limited. "These days you don't know who is a friend and who is an enemy. We need to get to the root of this and take immediate measures to deal with such propaganda machinery aimed at disintegrating armed forces of the country," said an official.