Use of social media to instigate communal tension worrying: PM

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New Delhi:  Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today raised alarm over the use of new tools - bulk SMS, social media, and internet - to stir an old problem - communal violence. Expressing concern over the rise of the communal violence across the country he said "the erosion in inter-community relations is something that should worry us all."

Flagging the use of the social media and internet to fuel communal violence in Assam and southern states last month, Dr Singh said the police needs to understand "how the new media is used by miscreants". India's cyber security, Dr Singh said, had critical gaps. He said India's "vulnerability to cyber crime is escalating" as the economy and "critical infrastructure" becomes increasingly reliant on "interdependent computer networks and internet." "Large scale" cyber attacks, he said, "can have potentially devastating results. He said that although the government is trying to redesign the cyber security structure, there was need to tap into the resources of the "academia" and "private sector."

In what would be music to the ears of those who have been agitating against excessive government controls on the social media the Prime Minister made clear that wasn't in favour of a blanket ban on social media. "Any measure to control the use of such media must be carefully weighed against the need for the freedom to express and communicate," the PM said. The Prime Minister was speaking to the Director General of Police and senior Police officers at New Delhi at annual security conference that is hosted by the Intelligence Bureau (IB).

The PM singled out Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra and Karnataka and Kerala for not doing enough to maintain communal harmony. He said communal situation in these states have been particular concern.

However, Assam, which witnessed clashes between the Bodos and migrant Muslims recently, did not find specific mention in the PM speech although Dr Singh represents the state in Parliament. The Prime Minister, however, did pull up the police for not being able to detect the growing turmoil. He said "the capacity of the administrative set-up to check such deterioration seems to have weakened. This would be true of the police administration too." He said that police must be able to "effectively track the sentiments of the people and inter-community sentiments as they rise" and make preventive arrests. The Ministry of Home Affairs had been critical of the Assam administration for not carrying out preventive arrests of key trouble makers even though sporadic violence continued to plague the state for over a month.


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