Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) has renewed its effort to spread social unrest in India by channelling money through the hawala route to groups based in India, in an attempt to incite violence among communities and even instigate sectarian violence among Shia and Sunni Muslims.

Officials in the security establishment said that in the past two months, the transmission of messages between Pakistan-based handlers and their people in India has increased substantially, and the focus of such messages has been on creating social unrest in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Bihar, Karnataka and Gujarat in particular.

“Rather than carry out terrorist strikes, the ISI handlers are now focusing on using ‘softer’ methods like fanning communal and sectarian violence in the country. They have asked their people to use Twitter, WhatsApp and Facebook to spread videos of ‘desecration’ of religious sites and slaughtering of cows to create widespread disturbance. We have recently come across two such videos where a cow is being seen slaughtered by purported Muslim youths in UP, but in reality the video was shot in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. The video was first shared from Bangalore. Similarly, an old video of a desecrated shrine in Bihar was made viral to fan unrest in the state. We have traced the originators of both these instances to individuals who have been in touch with people across the border,” an official with the Ministry of Home Affairs said.

Intelligence agencies have also come across details being shared between handlers and their people in India, where the handlers are asking the latter to desecrate churches and use local people to carry out the act. “Clear instructions are being given by the ISI handlers to their men in India to desecrate churches by using local residents. Similarly, they have also asked their people to fan sectarian violence among Shias and Sunnis, especially in Uttar Pradesh. We have come across multiple such messages that have been shared on WhatsApp groups and Telegram,” said the official.

According to officials, the money for such acts is being delivered to the men on the ground either through the hawala route or through multiple small amounts that are being directly credited in the accounts of individuals whose accounts witness multiple transactions in a day or in the accounts of organisations and NGOs that do not have any presence on the ground, but are registered with the government. “Since the money is deposited multiple times in denominations like Rs 20,000-Rs 30,000, it does not invoke suspicion. Similarly, the deposits are done over a period of time. For example, Rs 20 lakh, if deposited once, will definitely arouse suspicion, but if the same amount is deposited in 15 transactions, it can be easily passed off as legitimate transaction,” the official said.

The National Investigation Agency (NIA), which is investigating the murder of two right wing leaders who were killed in Gujarat last year, allegedly at the behest of Pakistan-based Dawood Ibrahim, too, has found that the reason behind the killing was to fan unrest on communal lines in Gujarat.

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