WaPo Exposes Propaganda Operations by Modi Government to Silence Critics
An opaque organization established by the Indian government in the US is reportedly attacking foreign critics of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, including US officials, researchers, and activists. The aim is to portray them as part of an anti-Indian conspiracy led by Islamists and billionaire George Soros, according to The Washington Post.
In each case, these accusations gained widespread attention on social media and were amplified by 35 Modi ministers, 14 government officials, 61 paid Modi journalists, and pro-Modi influencers. They were also presented in Capitol Hill. According to The Washington Post, nearly 10 thousand reposts of DisinfoLab content on X occurred, with retweets from individuals such as Tajjinder Bagga, the national secretary of the BJP youth wing; Sanju Verma, a BJP national spokeswoman; BJP Delhi unit vice president and the accused man behind the Delhi riots Kapil Mishra; Rajeev Chandrashekhar, information and technology minister; and Vikram Sood, a former RAW chief.
The surreptitious organization was established in 2020, in a whitewashed four-story building in New Delhi, by Col Dibya Satpathy of India’s notorious army’s Intelligence and Public Information units. Satpathy served as military personnel, records show, and rose through postings in India’s external intelligence agencies, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW).
Reports suggest that Satpathy has worked to shape the international perception of India, according to people familiar with the operations. Satpathy did not respond to The Post’s separate mail. Ajit Dovel also stayed muted to requests for a comment. Meanwhile, an email signed by “Disinfo Lab” stated that the organization did not side with Modi’s government. Responding to The Post’s question about its offices, the propaganda lab said, “The place we worked from had multiple other offices, including a co-working space. We do not and did not work for any other firm.”
One victim, Pieter Frierich, a California-based journalist who criticized the BJP and its affiliated Hindu right-wing groups through his articles and public speeches, was reportedly attacked by a 100-page propaganda report. Frierich said, “I felt like the earth shook. I understood it as a warning shot across the bow, saying, ‘You need to stay in your lane, stop poking your nose in our business, and keep your mouth shut.’”
Many academicians and diplomats are concerned about this heinous act. Joyojeet Pal, a professor of information at the University of Michigan who studies disinformation in India, stated, “The Indian right-wing is a new player that has arrived on the world stage and wants to shape global discussion. So far, much of it has been done in the same way it’s done within India – through crude, blunt force. But it’s getting smarter.” Sumit Ganguly, an expert on Indian diplomacy and national security at Indiana University in Bloomington, said, “Besmirching American critics and civil society organizations would be crossing a line reminiscent of KGB tactics during World War II. It would be part and parcel of the Modi government’s attitude towards dissent, whether at home or abroad.”
The Washington Post also references Elon Musk’s claim that the Indian government pressured Twitter to remove anti-Modi tweets. Disinfo Lab denies the findings, asserting that the US newspaper recycled two-year-old Pakistani propaganda in X.