Take up the White Man's burden—
    Send forth the best ye breed—
Go bind your sons to exile
    To serve your captive's needs;

-- Rudyard Kipling (1899)

White People’s New Burden: Dis-information

Remember the last time White people got worried about civilizing the developing world? It did not end well for us. This time, the White world is again concerned by the spread of disinformation in not-so-white parts of the globe, particularly in India.

And what if disinfo is determined through the foreign lens: white, if not outright racist?

A Sage Publication Report claimed that Indian social media space has produced/ consumed the maximum amount of disinformation during COVID-19. Sounds puzzling? As they say, the proof of the pudding is in eating. While India consumed the maximum number of disinfo, the rumors and conspiracy about the virus and vaccines and treatments and 5G and blah- blah are rampant in the US and Europe?!

And when it is a third-world country like India, the disinformation is in the Indian social media space. But if the same disinfo is circulating in the US and Europe, it is being pushed by Russia and China! The smart people of the developed White world can’t be faulted for producing and consuming fake news. That’s a disease for the poor cousins.

But worry you not.

Kipling’s calling still resonates. The White Knights have once again embarked upon ridding us of this disease. And the White saviors from the developed West have an ever-eager Brown Sepoys waiting folded hand to follow, with an almost religious belief, whatever the masters would dictate. If the ‘foren media’ has published a story, the Brown media would happily go on repeating it, without feeling any need to verify facts or asking even the most basic questions.

Gora Sahibs can’t be wrong. History tells us that. We have learned English, haven’t we?!

You must have seen and would continue to see, more and more reports highlighting the fake news/ disinformation gripping Indian social media and media space. Except, these reports themselves are gravely flawed at best, and peddling sponsored narratives at worst. This is not to say that no fake news/ misinformation is being spread in the Indian media space. The problem is with the framing of narrative and selective ‘expose’.

This is where we come in.

Preface: Why This Report?

BBC on November 24, 2021, published an article based on an OSINT investigative report by Benjamin Strick for the Center for Information Resilience (CIR), exposing a ‘vast nexus’ of fake social media handles, targeting farmers’ protest (called Coordinated Disinformation Network). Several prominent English-language news platforms in India recycled the BBC article, including The Print, the Wire, The Quint, The Times of India, and Pak media houses.  It would be a good time to recall that DisInfo Lab was one of the first to publish a report about the Khalistani narrative in the context of farmers’ protests. Therefore, seeing a BBC article was obvious to pique our interest.

The interest soon turned into surprise.

What was billed as a path-breaking report turned out to be a fiasco. An ‘expose’ of a coordinated disinformation campaign run by 33 fake Twitter handles! And if combined with their different avatars as claimed by the report, there are about 80 handles in total. In the annuals of hyperbole, this report would be the crown. However, hyping an insignificant report could merely be a click-bait hunger. But looking into the content, narratives, and the organization (CIR) behind the report; and the manufactured hype provided by the BBC.

The surprise turned into shock.

A Report, ostensibly ‘exposing’ a fake social media network turned out to be part of an elaborate info-war against India. While exposing disinfo/ info-war has become a useful tool for targeting elements/ societies that are seen as adversarial or ‘them’, this report appears to be one of the first to try and seed a narrative through the means of ‘expose’. It is a new milestone.  

We decide to expose the White Lords on high horses of disinfo.


Countering disinformation and fact-checks have become the new tool of info-war. By selectively ‘exposing’ some dis-information campaigns, howsoever insignificant they may be, and at the same time completely ignoring other dis-information campaigns which are at a much larger scale, these ‘fact-checks’ and ‘counter-disinfo’ platforms achieve two objectives: firstly, it helps cement a narrative that the party exposed was the only one indulged in dis-information; and secondly it gives a free play to the other side to continue to spread dis-info.

The CIR/ BBC report is a classic example of this tactic.

One could argue that anyone is free to expose what they find. But when an expose on a topic (farmers’ protests and Khalistan) completely ignores not the only larger part of misinformation (against India) but also ignores earlier reports that have provided details and evidence about foreign-sponsored narratives, then it smells fishy.

The smell would prove right.

Our Report deals with the BBC/CIR report in three parts. In the first part, we expose the flaws and fallacies in the report. In the second part, we will show much bigger influence operations at play against India, which were completely ignored. In fact, by publishing this report, BBC and CIR have only helped to hype those anti-India narratives. And lastly, we will trace the organization and people behind the Report, their possible motives, and agenda. It is no surprise that the BBC did not provide any details about these aspects.

Claim by BBC/CIR Report:

In essence, the report established that a large-scale coordinated disinformation campaign was being run by a set of fake handles targeting the farmers’ protest and peddling the government narrative.


Having read the report, we conclude that the ‘large scale’ disinfo nexus exposed by CIR/BBC was a total of 33 fake Twitter handles (80 counting alliterations), that were running a coordinated campaign against Sikhs for Justice (SFJ). A deliberate attempt was made by CIR/BBC to wrongly connect it to farmers’ protests while hiding the SFJ aspect.

Additional Facts:

SFJ is a Khalistani propaganda outfit operating from the US and UK with ISI-backed ideologue Gurpatwant Singh Pannun as its face. Pannun and gang, supported in no small measures by the Pakistani establishment with an army of fake handles and ISPR trolls, run coordinated campaigns against India at a much larger scale. The network exposed by BBC/CIR was a smaller fake industry countering a bigger fake industry (rather stupid and futile, indeed). However, unlike smaller fake industries, the state sponsorship of the larger fake industry is an established fact.

In essence, the small fake network against Pannun/ SFJ was exposed by CIR/BBC but the larger fake network being run by SFJ/ Pakistan was conveniently ignored.

What we claim:

Aside from the fact that the CIR/BBC report was shallow and full of loopholes, we strive to establish that:

  • The Report conveniently ignores the available evidence and the larger narrative at play.
  • The Report, surreptitiously, tries to push the agenda of Khalistan and Sikh separatism.
  • That the Report is an attempt to defend SFJ and Pannun, by equating a campaign against Pannun as a campaign against farmers’ protests.
  • That the Report also attempts to negate the fact of Pakistan’s involvement in fake campaigns against India.
  • That BBC deliberately misled the readers about the organization behind the report. &
  • That all the entities involved – BBC to CIR – are linked with the UK Govt.

We will prove each of these points!


For the sake of avoiding confusion, we would call the CIR to report a “Report” and the ‘Coordinated Disinformation Network it claims to have busted as “CDN”. And our report we will call “Paper.”

Part I: How not to do an OSINT Report

Chapter 1: Framing the Narrative

The very first page of the Report is enough to give a sense of the agenda from which the Report is written. The linguistic jugglery should be included in the coursework for teaching the art of psy-war.

The CIR Report claims that CDN had the following ‘objectives’:

  • to discredit the push for ‘Sikh independence’
  • label ‘Sikh political interests’ as extremist
  • stoke cultural tensions within India and international communities
  • promote Indian Government content.

Please note that these are Report writers’ conclusions of what they ‘think’ was the objective. However, as we shall show, none of these claims have been substantiated. The framing of the objective itself was the clearest example of agenda-setting. Here is how:   

  1. By claiming that CDN was aimed at discrediting the push for Sikh independence, the Report gives credence to the narrative that there is a real demand for Sikh independence. In other words, CIR/BBC is pushing the unadulterated narrative that Khalistanis in the UK (and the US & Canada) are peddling, with the strong backing of the Pakistani establishment. There are tons of literature and media reports documenting these issues, but the narrative of ‘Sikh independence’ has been seeded without any qualifier or caveat.

2. Without defining what ‘Sikh political interest’ was, the Report conveniently equated the narrative of Khalistan with farmers’ protests. In the process, the Report has masked the most significant feature of the CDN – which is, that it was essentially a social media campaign (even if coordinated) against SFJ and Pannun. And while any coordinated campaign should deserve to be exposed, hiding the actual objective of the CDN and trying to connect it with farmers’ protests is much bigger disinformation peddled by CIR/BBC.

3. No evidence was provided on how the CDN is stoking ‘cultural tensions’ between India and ‘international communities.’ No attempt has been made to define which international community it is talking about unless it is talking about the SFJ and Pannun – as the CDN is attempted at the Sikh audience against the SFJ’s Khalistani agenda. This has been translated into a ‘cultural’ war in the report.

4. The Report claimed that the handles involved in CDN were pushing Indian govt content. However, no definition/ example/ evidence has been provided as to what constitutes the government content. For one, CDN doesn’t seem to be devoting much focus to farmers’ protests. If (a big if) it did talk about the topic in support of the farmers’ bill, it does not equate to peddling a narrative. There are scores of articles and contents supporting and opposing Famers bills, and ipso-facto, they simply can’t be brushed into broad categories of pro or anti-government.

5. The objectives that the CIR/ BBC endeavor attempts to defend is a blueprint of a very much coordinated and targeted campaign to reinforce the narrative being pushed by Khalistani elements, particularly by Sikhs for Justice (SFJ). The ‘evidence’ given in the Report would demonstrate these narratives even clearer.

Chapter 2: the ‘Large Scale’ Dis-info of 30 odd Twitter Handles

The flaws in the CIR/BBC Report were evident right from the beginning, starting from the Objective, and then going into the “Summary”. The second paragraph, in the summary section (page no. 4) claims that:

“Our research (sic) identified a core network of 80 fake accounts that interacts with a much wider network of accounts, which appear to be authentic, to spread and amplify content generated by the core network.”

The above statement makes a generic claim, which could be used in any Report in any context. Any fake handle on Twitter and elsewhere is ‘interacting’ with a much wider network by virtue of being on the platform. Here are some of the examples of ‘interactions’ given in the Report, that might have helped them spread misinformation.

Celebrating Indian Independence Day, remembering Sher-e-Punjab Maharaja Ranjit Singh, talking about the spread of Sikhi by Sikh Gurus, and claiming Sikh and Indian identity have brought likes/ retweets. These are an example of ‘interacting’ with a larger audience to spread misinformation.

How big this disinformation campaign was?

As per the report:

“For example, one tweet from one of the fake accounts on Twitter had more than 3,000 retweets and 16,000 likes, which was significantly more than any of the metrics identified on Facebook or Instagram.”.

Sounds pretty big. But that’s about it. The Report has repeated the same claim a couple of times throughout the report. It did not find any other evidence, but repeating the same thing, again and again, has created a sense of massive scale for disinformation by 33 Twitter handles. And what disinformation got more than 3000 retweets and 16,000 likes?

As per CIR/BBC, demanding Khalistan in India is freedom of speech, but advocating for the same Khalistan in the UK is disinformation! 

Narratives promoted by the fake network 

The Report at one place mentions that CDN targets its content primarily against the Khalistan movement, adding the claim that:

  • Any notion (sic) of Sikh independence is extremist and terrorism-related (no evidence of terror accusations).
  • That Pakistan is fueling Sikh independence movements in India.
  • And that Western countries (namely the UK, US, and Canada) are harboring Sikh terrorist groups.

Either the writers of the Report (Benjamin Strick et al) are unaware of the history of the Khalistani movement and its present dynamics or they intend to peddle the same Khalistani narrative. All these claims are very well articulated in numerous documents, and literature on the topic, and are a constant matter of debate. [1]  [2]  [3]

Here are some of the claims by CIR/BBC Report, and the facts:


“The network uses hashtags related to Khalistan and terrorism when commenting on significant issues in India and abroad to target Sikh independence, farmers’ protests, activists and more.”


The claim was made without substantiation – deliberately putting the Sikh independence and farmers’ protests in the same context and insinuating without giving evidence as to how the handles promoted #terrorism in the context of farmers’ protests.


Some of the fake network’s messaging included statements calling for action such as Indian “Nationalists shouldn’t remain watching silently” and that they “need to counter & expose them [the Khalistani movement for Sikh independence]” to “save India” from “Pakistan, Canada, UK, and the US”.


The call is to ‘expose and counter’ the large-scale fake propaganda of SFJ/ Pannun, which the report plays down.


The Report concludes this ‘call for action’ as:

The network’s advocacy is that supporters of Sikh independence are extremists or terrorists and that Indian nationalists must take action against them (sic).


The Report deliberately interprets it as a ‘call for action’ to expose disinformation, making a sinister insinuation that the ‘narrative’ could incite violence against Sikhs.


It may contribute to an environment in which some actors consider intimidation of or violence towards, the Sikh community as legitimate.


Again, a deliberate and sinister attempt by CIR/BBC to distort the call for ‘exposing and countering’ fake propaganda by SFJ as inciting violence against Sikhs! The CDN has at no place even remotely insinuated anything against the Sikh community.


“The network increased its activity since the commencement of the farmers’ protests in India which have been ongoing since late 2020. Both the farmers’ protests and the Khalistan independence movement have been the two most frequently targeted subjects of the core network of fake accounts.”


Zero evidence was given in the Report about the increased frequency coinciding with the farmers’ protests. As noted earlier, the CDN seems almost exclusively against SFJ/ Pannun, and connecting them with the Farmers’ protests seems like a deliberate attempt by BBC/ CIR to defend SFJ/ Pannun and create disinformation and disharmony by claiming that the handles were against the farmers’ or Sikhs.


CDN’s ‘narrative’ was hyped through the media!


Among other things the Report claimed that these handles had several “breakouts” through media, thereby indicating that the disinformation these handles propagated had a much wider reach through the online and legacy media. The Report has provided some evidence, as below:

In this report, a news media has picked the details about Hola Mohalla, a Sikh Festival, and in another two stories, the news covers the two events organized by pro-India groups abroad. Both the events are factually correct.


The core network of fake accounts promotes content that labels the Khalistan movement as extremist. The Khalistan movement refers to a campaign for the creation of a sovereign Sikh state (called Khalistan) in Punjab, India.


This is telling. BBC/CIR Report peddles the Khalistani agenda of a particular faction that has Pakistani linkages. [4] The larger Khalistan demands revolve around the ‘united Punjab’, with its capital at Lahore, which was essentially what Punjab was at its peak under Maharaja Ranjeet Singh. To label the Khalistani movement as ‘extremist’ has been cited as the major evidence!

Bonus Fun Fact: Fake Network without Fake News!

The most curious aspect of the report was that the CDN never posted any fake news. It was a group of fake handles but posting factually correct things or CIRticizing SFJ/Pannun and Khalistanis.

This was one of its kind fake networks, and it was one of its kind exposes!

Chapter 3: Graphs, Gimmicks, and Fakery

One of the most important capabilities of the Report writer Benjamin Strick is that even if the reports have no substance, his presentations make them look worthwhile. His previous reports including the one during the West Bengal Elections [5] would do a rather shallow analysis of copy-paste and duplication, which several other fact-checkers in India were doing regularly. But he would present the reports with such graphics that to a layperson they would look like NASA’s space exploration!

Below is a sample, where the graph makes the 33 handles look like a whole new level of the disinformation campaign.  Here he has presented the ‘network’ of these 33 fake handles on Twitter, a social networking site. If one were to extend this data to one more layer, it might cover a significant part of Twitter, and a few more layers, and this might prove that Jack Dorsey and Parag Agrawal are also connected with CDN!

Note: in a nutshell, this is graphical jugglery by the author to the same tune that the rest of the Report is linguistic jugglery to hype a low-level 33 Twitter handle coordinated campaign as the next level of Disinformation.

Based on this network, the Report claims that:

“It is also helpful as a visual aid to highlight the significance of how a small number of well-curated ‘sock puppet’ accounts that post regularly and target an existing genre of culture online, can influence public opinions and amplify specific talking points to such a wide audience.”


The report for the most part does not provide evidence to its sweeping claims. It has not explained whether the networks are made through followers/ following links or endorsements (likes/ RTs). If it is Follow-for-Follow, then as per the Report itself, these handles were found to be not only following each other but also sharing a large number of followers, which means it was essentially an echo chamber, with negligible impact. Therefore, on what basis the Report concludes that it can ‘influence public opinions,’ is not clear.  

Oh, and by the way, what is ‘an existing genre of culture online’?

The Real Agenda of CDN

As mentioned, the entire CDN seems to be targeting SFJ/ Pannun, and while this is still considered a coordinated campaign, it can at best be desCIRbed as a smaller counter dis-info against a much larger dis-info by SFJ/ Pannun. One of the key features of all organized campaigns is fake news. However, the Report has not found or least not mentioned a single fake news propagated by the CDN. The only examples of fake news/ dis-info the report provides are the claims that “Pannun is not real Sikh”.

In India, people have a right to claim the democratically elected PM as “not my PM” or “not the Real PM”. To claim that Pannun is not a real Sikh could be considered anything but fake or propaganda. That the Report has issues with this point is telling. 

The same stories go on Facebook – where the same post is circulated. It is obvious from the Report that the almost exclusive target of the campaign was SFJ/ Pannun which through the linguistic jugglery and stretch of the imagination has been connected with farmers’ protests.

Chapter 4: the Tenuous Connection with Farmers’ Protest

The Report makes a rather bold assertion:

One of the narratives identified in the research was targeting the farmers’ protests. The fake network has repeatedly used messages claiming that ‘Khalistani terrorists’ hijacked the farmers’ protests. This message conveyed through memes and text is likely an attempt to delegitimize the farmers’ movement and shift the debate away from the farmer laws and into what the accounts claim is an issue about “terrorism” and “Khalistan”.

By making such assertions, the Report in a way is claiming that Khalistani elements had not infiltrated the farmers’ protest and that any insinuation about the Khalistani elements in the context of Farmers’ protests was an attempt to ‘delegitimize’ the protests.

First, as shown by the CIR Report, most of the screenshots include references almost exclusively against SFJ/ Pannun, a fact masked. Secondly, and more importantly, the story of farmers’ protests being infiltrated by Khalistani elements was reported widely in the media during the time. Here is a list of media articles before Jan 15, 2021, the date these handles are talking about:

If a topic is under detailed discussion in media, it is only natural that the same would spill over into social media. Unless the Report found some organic link or instigation started by these handles, to claim that these 80 handles targeted farmers’ protests legitimacy is an outright fabrication. Here is one more sample from the CIR/BBC Report of how the CDN ‘delegitimized’ farmers’ protests. The posts read:

“While #SikhFarmers were protesting peacefully for their real concerns, #KhalistaniSeparatists intruded in the #FarmersProtests and turned the peaceful protest into a #KhalistaniMess. It shifted the focus from #RealProblems of our #RealFarmers.”

Please note how the CDN ‘delegitimizes’ farmers’ protest”: the Post talks about “peaceful protests” by “real farmers” for “real problems”.

Part II: Whitewashing the actual Dis-information

Chapter 5: Whitewashing Pakistan?

A claim on Page 5 of the CIR Report notes:

“The accounts target their content at numerous issues, but primarily use the Khalistan movement to claim any notion of Sikh independence is extremist and terrorist-related, that Pakistan is fuelling Sikh independence movements in India, and that Western countries (namely the UK, US, and Canada) are harboring Sikh terrorist groups.”

In essence, the CIR Report inter-alia, conclude that the CDN was falsely blaming Pakistan behind the Khalistani agenda. In other words, Pakistan is NOT behind the Khalistani propaganda. Either CIR/BBC are completely unaware of even the most popular reporting on the topic or have willfully ignored the vast literature on the role of Pakistan machinery behind the Khalistani agenda, and in particular behind SFJ/ Pannun, including a DisInfo Lab report. Moreover, SFJ continues to operate from the UK, [6] USA [7] & Canada. [8] 

The DisInfo Lab report ‘Useful Idiots’ [9] has documented the role of Pak elements, including the Pakistani State with Pannun behind a coordinated campaign hyping the Khalistani agenda. The report, among other things, proves that:

While the Indian farmers were protesting the Farm laws, a new kind of narrative had seeped in, claiming that Khalistanis had infiltrated the protest and anti-India elements were pulling the string.

The seeding was done through Khalistani elements based out of the US, UK, and Canada, with support from Pakistani influence operations, who saw the protests as an opportunity to push the divisive agenda.

Dal Khalsa (UK), Babbar Khalsa International (BKI), and above all, Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) were some of the prominent groups. These groups keep biting into every opportunity to garner Sikh supporters for their agenda, despite no support in the Indian Punjab or the Sikh diaspora.

The pro-Khalistan campaigns are either started or supported by Inter-Services Public Relations Pakistan (ISPR) and during the farmers’ protest, Pannun started raking up the issue of Indian farmers and Khalistan. One of the major ISPR influencers Veena Malik (@iVeenaKhan) posted a fake photo about Khalistan. The post was further pushed mostly by the Pakistani handles, who were supporters of Imran Khan and his political party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). [10]

However, while no one in India took them seriously, they found a ready audience in the Indian Right-Wingers. The RW handles were the first to use Khalistan in the context of Farmers’ Protests.

SFJ and Pakistani influencers further fueled the narrative and Veena Malik remained most active, ‘supporting the farmers’ with two video messages back-to-back. Pakistani influencer, Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) youth head Abdul Waheed Afridi also instigated the idea of Khalistan in the context of farmers’ protests.

A total of 625 accounts shared/retweeted tweets of 13 accounts with more than 10,000 followers and maligning the farmers as Khalistani. And by November (2020), a segment of the media jumped in.

The role of the Pakistani establishment and influencers is not limited to this one report alone. There are scores of fake campaigns being run at any given time. Another example of Pak-sponsored propaganda is given below.

Chapter 6: “Jinnah was Right”!?

Pakistani state machinery, influencers, as well as media were deeply involved in peddling several fake narratives during the farmers’ protest, all of which miraculously escaped the OSINT sleuths at CIR. In the wake of the farmers’ protest, Delhi Police claimed to have identified more than 300 fake handles being operated from Pakistan in the name of Sikhs/ farmers. However, even this number was a minuscule part of the overall disinformation campaign.

Pak SOP for Disinformation:

  • A Pakistani establishment Keyboard warrior creates a fake Twitter handle impersonating an Indian Sikh.
  • These fake IDs running anti-India campaigns during farmers’ protests (India is against Sikhs/ Jinnah was Right)
  • The Twitter post is used to create the narrative of “India Sikh supporting Pakistan” by Pakistani media
  • The ruling PTI then uses the post to get it trended on Twitter (#JinnahWasRight) in the Pakistani social media space
  • The fake Sikh handle, once exposed, changes back to a Pakistani Organization, this time as the defender of Islam!

The Curious Case of Damanjeet Singh

Many fake Twitter accounts have emerged after the farmers’ protests in India gained heat in December 2020. One such account was by the name of Damanjeet Singh. A tweet from this fake account by the username @DamanjeetaSingh praising Jinnah and alleging the mistreatment of Sikhs in India went viral.

The post had garnered more than 9,000 retweets and 31,000 likes within a few hours. The post which had used #IndiaShutDown was picked up by Pakistani news websites like the Voice of Sindh, The Dailymail Pak, and Newsupdate. pk claiming that Indian Sikhs feel “Jinnah was right”.  

The same tweet was also re-tweeted by Pakistani influencers like Nazia Rubani and Fiza Batool Gilani.


Damanjeet Singh was a fake account being run from Pakistan. Once the id got exposed for being a Pakistani handle, (Unique Twitter ID number 1336218996807491584) “Damanjeet Singh” deleted all previous posts and changed its name to Voice of Youth Pakistan @Voice_YP. The Voice of Youth Pakistan has now been suspended was was run by @TahirMYasin and @IfraAkram_.

The following are two self-claimed admins of this page at present after the handle took its new avatar.

The #IndiaShutDown used in the post was originally trended in Pakistan on December 8, 2020. Among the top influencers for the hashtag was Damanjeet Singh. The same was found out from the website pakpolstats.com.

Eventually, on 24th and 25th December 2020, on the birth anniversary of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the same message was used by PTI (#JinnahWasRight). The hashtag, posted by a fake Pakistani handle in the name of a Sikh separatist trended on Pakistani Twitter for two days. The same hashtag was used by PTI, several Pakistani news channels, Pakistan’s Ministry of Information, the Government of Pakistan, and many other prominent Pakistani Twitter accounts.   

The screenshot of Damanjeet Singh’s tweet was also shared widely on the same day. Guess, the Pakistani establishment is still not convinced of its existence, and seeking validation from an ‘Indian’ handle, that is too fake.

As noted above, this was just one of the many such campaigns, that CIR/BBC managed to overlook. That CIR/BBC would attempt to give clean chit to Pakistan is rather surprising. To expose a fake network is one thing, to use that to whitewash the role of Pakistan behind the Khalistani agenda is unexplainable.

And if you were wondering about the motive, there is more.

Chapter 7: Whitewashing SFJ?

Pakistan was not the only beneficiary of this CIR/BBC propaganda Report. The main beneficiary seems to be the Khalistani outfit SFJ and Pannun.

One may not have any beef with the Report exposing a ‘coordinated’ campaign, however small it is, and may still call it ‘large scale’. However, one has to wonder about the fact that much larger ‘coordinated’ dis-info campaigns, which were run parallelly on the same topic were ignored, not one or two but multiple. The only difference is that the other fake campaigns were against India. By ignoring much larger anti-India fake networks, and exposing a minuscule network the Report scored two birds in a single shot – giving free space to anti-India propagandists while at the same time peddling the narrative of ‘rampant’ misinformation in India, insinuating a ‘pro-state’ agenda on the sly.

A cursory screening of social media threw multiple fake networks, some involving hundreds if not thousands of fake handles operating against India. Unlike the network exposed by CIR, these handles were created at the beginning of the Farmers’ protest which was pushing the anti-India and Khalistan narrative. Many of those accounts were Pakistani.

Timeline of the account creation

During the Farmers’ protest, we analyzed tweets that were supporting Khalistan and pushing the Khalistani agenda on Twitter. We observed more number of accounts created between November 2020 and December 2020. The peaks in the graph above occur between 27 November to 07 December 2020. There were 1058 accounts created between November and December 2020. We found around 47 accounts that were created in this period had “Kaur” surnames. Most of these accounts have either no profile picture or a fake profile picture.

Many of these accounts have now been suspended, or those who are still available on Twitter are dormant and have deleted all their tweets.

13 accounts had “Pak Army” or “PTI” in their username. Most of these accounts may not exist anymore, as they have deleted their profiles, got suspended, or changed their usernames.

For the analysis, we picked one of the many hashtags being used viz. #Khalsa4Khalistan, which was pushed from Pakistan to propagate SFJ’s agenda for Referendum 2020 (asking to vote on www.yes4khalistan.org site run by SFJ). The #Khalsa4khalistan hashtag was one of the top trends in Pakistan on 13 April 2020. A total of 186 accounts pushed this hashtag asking to vote for “Referendum 2020” on www.yes2khalistan.org

Here is the timeline of the tweets. This indicates that between 2 PM and 4 PM, the maximum amount of tweets was done in a planned and coordinated manner.

Tweet Timeline for April 13

Distribution of Accounts according to Followers count and date of creation:

  • Most of the accounts were created between 2018-2021, with a significant number of handles created on or around April 13, 2021, to push the SFJ agenda.
  • These small accounts are used for retweeting the hashtag multiple times to make it trending. Analysis of most re-tweeting accounts is done in the latter part of the report below.

These accounts have been pushing the same content.

Fake Profiles

As noted, most of the handles were fake. Here are some examples.

  • @Kuljeetkaur1231 – This account uses the profile picture of a Sikh woman which is available for download on Shutterstock [11] and Joined Twitter in April 2020 only. This account has 65 tweets on its profile, all of them on 13th April. This account was just active for one day, i.e., April 13, 2020.

This account constantly tweets about Khalistan and retweets content of other Pakistani or Fake accounts.

  • @komal_bawadi – This account uses a Fake profile picture taken from TikTok. Many TikTok videos and accounts use this picture, and the picture has been shared on YouTube in Rajasthani Music Channels and other videos. This profile joined Twitter in March 2020 and the last tweet was on May 27, 2020. This account mostly retweets the contents of a handle @satkabir_.
  • @PSharmna – This account, with no profile or background picture, joined Twitter on 13th April 2020. It has posted 127 tweets, and all of them on 13th April 2020. Since then, this account has not been tweeted. All 127 tweets are regarding “Birth of Khalsa”, “#Khalsa4Khalistan”, “#SikhsAreNotIndians”, etc.
The account was active only on 13.04.2020

Other fake profiles which were active only on 13th April 2020 are as follows:

Engaging Paid Bots for Pushing the SFJ’s Agenda?

Twitter has given scope to many new enterprises; social media marketing is one of them. However, to make more effective marketing, some of the groups create handles that mimic real persons and try pushing sponsored agendas. The SFJ’s propaganda was amplified through such paid bots, apart from the Pakistani troll factory.

One such handle was @urwapatel. This account has changed its name from “Aarfa Kaur” to “Urwa Singh”. These accounts shared videos of other accounts having similar “Kaur” surnames, such as “Eshal Kaur” (@eshal_kaur), “Haya Kaur” (@Hayakaur1), and “Sunita” (@nitu_jee). All these accounts shared the same Khalistan / SFJ videos on their timeline. For example, Urwa Singh shared two videos about an SFJ aide Harpreet Singh Rana, 29 times on December 2, 2021. The two videos were initially shared by Eshal Kaur and Sunita.

It was a chain reaction of a real coordinated campaign: Urwa Singh was posting content from Eshal Kaur, who was retweeting SFJ content from another fake handle Haya Kaur. Haya Kaur was retweeting “Beeha” (@Biiyahh___) which in turn was sharing a video of Pannun from “Jarleen Jatti” (@JarleenJatti). And so on.

All these accounts are bots or accounts that are bought to amplify narratives or hashtags on Twitter. These accounts retweet/ promote each other’s content. These accounts change their names, and profile pictures and disguise themselves after a particular campaign. As in this case, these accounts are pretending to be Punjabi women, promoting the SFJ narrative.

When analyzing the followers of accounts like Eshal Kaur (359 followers), Haya Kaur (232 followers), Beeha (253 followers), and Sunita (948 followers), we found different types of accounts following them. While some of them are Punjabi women with the surname “Kaur”, others are projected as ‘right-wing’ accounts with “Jai Shri Ram” in their bio, while still, others are Asian accounts related to cryptocurrency or NFT. All these accounts however have one thing in common which is “Follow 4 Follow” or “100 percent follow back” in their bio.

The list of followers/ following confirms the nature of this network!

The same network was identified recently for promoting a doctored video of the Indian Cabinet meeting, merged with derogatory statements against Sikhs[12].

Side Note:

This raises some really important questions about the various ‘expose’, which claim a handle to be RW/ LW/ or belonging to one community or another based purely on their profile. As is evident here, innumerable such networks keep changing their profiles to peddle one narrative or another. DisInfo Lab and others have documented the weaponization of this Twitter facility in several reports. However, there seems no awareness of these aspects, and many fact-checkers/ Dis-info groups continue to use such unreliable markers in their report.

Helping hand from Pakistan for SFJ’s Khalistani Agenda

As was expected, the maximum push for SFJ’s propaganda came from Pakistan’s disinformation machinery.

  •  @h_Amid7 runs from Rawalpindi and is not active from December 2020. This account runs campaigns for Pakistan Govt. [13]

Interestingly, our dear friend from across the border not only peddles propaganda but also uses abusive language. But alas, Twitter would only act when the ‘experts’ in the West will make a report.

  • Another account @Sarahhhkhannn, formed in February 2020 has only one Pakistani follower. This account was last active on April 13, 2020. The other post shared by the account proves that the account is Pakistani, peddling the Pakistani establishment narrative. [14]
  •  Another account Basharit Malik is a ‘UK-based’ Pakistani account only pushing the current Pak govt agenda. [15]
  • Adil Shahzad – Again a Pakistani account was only active during March and July 2020. [16]
  • Danish Ahmed Soomro – Another Pakistani account, Mostly Retweets Government content and Kashmir-related content. [17]
  • Another Pak account, is busy helping Pannun. [18]

And there are many more:

Following is the list of handles who pushed this narrative, in decreasing order.

The following network graph shows the interconnectedness between the accounts that pushed SFJ’s agenda and Pak handles that retweeted them.

The below Word cloud is of the words that were used with #Khalsa4Khalistan on 13th April 2020. Farmers’ protest was also engaged with Dawat-e-Islami, Zafar Mirza, and Musharraf!

Word Cloud of the bios of the accounts indulged in #Khalsa4Khalistan 

Analysis of network diagram

The below graph is the representation of the handles involved in pushing the SFJ agenda. Each cluster of nodes represents a tweet cluster. The central nodes are the original tweets and the nodes connected to it through edges are the ones which either retweeted, replied, or quoted the central node. The green edges represent retweets, the blue edges represent “quotes” and the orange edges represent replies to a tweet.

There are very small clusters in the center, having a few re-tweets, but most of the amplification of the hashtag is done by many individual accounts that are originally Pakistani pretending to be Indian or Fake handles, deployed commercially.

A Suggestion:

Having seen the support for SFJ’s agenda in Pakistan, we suggest CIR/BBC advise Pannun to get a Khalistan in Pakistan, to begin with. Why waste so much support?

Part III: White Lie or Brown Lie

Chapter 8: White People Are Worried about Disinformation in India

This BBC/ CIR Report is yet another attempt by the White people to take care of the disinformation menace in India. One White makes a report and first shares it with the Social Media companies, who promptly act upon the Report and delete the ‘fake network’. Then it gives the Report to another White Publication, which publishes it as an ‘exclusive’, twisting the Report even further, ignoring the single most important theme of SFJ/Pannun, and giving a false context of farmers’ protests.

Neither the BBC Report, nor CIR and Benjamin Strick cared to explain how exactly the Report was shared with Twitter and Facebook, and how did they act. It’s almost like an exclusive White Club, where the guys all know each other and can promptly get anything done. So far, despite several Reports and evidence by many Indian fact-checkers/Disinfo labs, Twitter does not seem to bother at all.

Not even on a Report exposing Child Porn on Twitter.

It would have been very useful if CIR had cared to explain the mechanism. Were the handles reported individually? Or the list was shared with Twitter and Facebook? And if the list was shared, to which email? What was FB/Twitter’s response? None of these things are deemed important to be documented.

What is even more suspicious, is that the Report does not provide any data references in terms of quantity. The Report is full of qualitative adjectives, which is a bad form of editorial practice. Nor did BBC seem interested in finding these data references for claims. A very British organization CIR prepared the Report and another very British organization BBC got it exclusively and publishes it without verifying any claims.

Move on, there is nothing to see here.

Some Questions?

  • How are the terminologies defined in the report, as noted at the beginning of this report, and what references were consulted to define those?
  • How did the CIR report determine the location of all 33 Twitter accounts? A modus operandi has been elaborated in DisInfolab’s previous report “The Anatomy of Pakistan’s 5th generation warfare”, [19] wherein Pakistani accounts masqueraded as South Asian Accounts (India, Nepal, Sri Lanka) to spread disinformation to malign India.
  • There are 27.25 million (from Statista) Twitter users in India and in a month approximately 1L (100k) tweets are done on Khalistan alone. Analyzing just 33 sample numbers of accounts is rather small, to say the least. How did the CDN come to notice?
  • A claim made on Page 4 of the Report says that a total of 33 Twitter accounts with more than 84,000 followers appear to be “Human operated”. Which CIRteria were implied implemented to determine that those 84k accounts were human-operated?
  • What was the basis of the claim that the CDN increased its activity since the commencement of the farmers’ protests in India which have been ongoing since late 2020?
  • What percentage of the total content of CDN was on SFJ/ Pannun what percentage was on the topic of Khalistan (without SFJ); and what percentage was on the farmers’ protest?
  • In what manner the communication was done with Facebook and Twitter to get these handles deleted? Did Facebook/ Twitter verify the claim independently ask for the evidence or act just in good faith?

Chapter 9: How Does State-sponsored Dis-information Look Like?

The Obscure Organization behind the Report: CIR 

Curiously, BBC did not elaborate on the organization behind the Report. The Centre for Information Resilience (CIR) claims to be an independent, non-profit social enterprise, and the UK’s first Disinfolab (ouch!), was incorporated on June 16, 2020. [20] It has two founders: Ross Burley and Adam Rutland, both of whom have been associated with the UK govt.

Ross Burley

  • First career experience was working as Foreign Policy Advisor to David Lidington at the House of Commons (Jul 2007 – May 2010).
  • Worked in the Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office for 4 years and 10 months (May 2010 – Feb 2015). During his work, he worked as a ‘public affairs officer’ in Washington DC and Tel Aviv for 2 years each.
  • He is currently working as a Civilian Deployable Expert at the UK Government’s Stabilization Unit. (2017 – Present) [21]
  • In Jul 2020, he joined CIR as Co-Founder and Executive Director.

Adam Rutland

  • Adam has 14 years of experience as a ‘diplomat’ at the British Foreign Ministry (2004-18).
  • He was a civilian spokesman for the British reconstruction team in Helmand province, Afghanistan in 2008.

(Helmand Provincial Reconstruction Team (HPRT) was established in September 2004. It was led by the US until 1 May 2006, when this responsibility was handed to the UK. HPRT ceased operations in Lashkar Gah on 27 December 2013. HPRT was funded by the UK, USA, Danish and Estonian Governments.) Interestingly, CIR advisor Toomas Hendrik Ilves was the President of Estonia at that time.

  • Subsequently, a spokesman for the British Embassy in Jakarta in 2013. &
  • Adam’s name appeared in the integrity initiative leak in 2018.

What is Integrity Initiative? 

The Integrity Initiative Leaks were leaked documents about an organization by the same name, which started on November 5, 2018, when a set of documents were posted online by ‘Anonymous’ at Cyberguerilla.org. [22]

‘The Integrity Initiative’ project was launched in 2015, and funded by the British government. The declared goal of the project was to counteract Russian propaganda and the hybrid warfare of Moscow. [23] The Integrity Initiative’ was founded by Christopher Nigel Donnelly,

known as a UK ‘deep politician’ who was a Special Adviser to four NATO Secretaries-General for 13 years, as well as to UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. He co-founded the Institute for Statecraft (which he directs), which was the parent organization of Integrity Initiative.

The leaked documents indicated that in the name of countering disinformation, the UK govt projects were engaged in gerygone warfare themselves.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) reacted to the Leaks, accusing Russia of the release of documents, which it said were “intended to confuse audiences and discredit an organization which is working independently to tackle the threat of disinformation.” [24]While the official UK line was that the Leak was pushed by the GRU (Russian Intelligence Agency). The UK govt, however, did not provide any evidence for its claims. The FCO did admit that the stolen documents included names of Foreign Office-funded projects and lists of friendly journalists. [25]

Adam Rutland in the leaked document:

Adam’s name was mentioned in the leaked docs of batch #4. The file CND Gen List 2 is a list of 22 names with email addresses. The Integrity Initiative claimed on Twitter that some of the documents leaked in batch #4 were not theirs and had been misrepresented as part of the organization. [26] However, it did not specify which names were theirs, keeping a long rope.

Interesting fact:

Adam’s LinkedIn profile [27] shows that he co-founded the CIR in June 2018, but the company was registered in 2020. It is not clear when the LinkedIn profile was created/ updated, but the dates are rather intriguing. Just a few months before his name was leaked as part of Integrity Initiative, he happened to have founded an independent organization but got it registered after a full two years! As per the leaked document, he was working at the FCO Communications and Engagement Department.

Rachel Claire Winny: another UK Govt official

Adam Rutland incorporated “ADAM RUTLAND CONSULTING LIMITED” in Jun 2018. [28] The firm added Rachel Claire Winny [29] as a director on 8 Jul 2021. [30]  While the CIR website or social media does not mention Rachel Winny anywhere, as per her LinkedIn profile she is the Director. She also has work experience at FCO and Department for International Development.

Now re-read the Twitter post by the CIR and its co-founder: [31]

Please note the narrative: government agenda, fake news, and nationalism… we will see these narratives repeated again and again.  


A British ‘counter-disinformation’ platform founded by two people having close association with the British govt publishes a half-baked propaganda Report, which tries to whitewash Pakistan-sponsored Khalistani elements SFJ and Pannun, while at the same time surreptitiously pushes the agenda of ‘Sikh independence’ and ‘India as fake news hub’, gets published by BBC, a corporation funded by British govt.

The author of the Report had asked, where is the evidence of foreign collaboration of Khalistanis.

Conclusion: Gora Sahibs & Brown Sepoys

The CIR Report/ BBC Exclusive, more than anything else, is a testament to what 200 years of slavery does to the psyche of a nation, for generations to come. No sooner did the White masters publish the story, than the Brown sepoys ran with it. Several ‘prominent’ Indian media published their stories, based on BBC exclusives. Not one single Indian media house raised any of the questions we have mentioned. They swallowed the BBC report rod, hook, and sinker.

They did not even read the CIR report, only the BBC’ rehash of it.

There is an almost religious belief in what the foreign media would publish. This blind devotion, especially from some of the elite English language media of India is symbolic of mental slavery and submissiveness. And this was not the first time BBC has peddled a distorted narrative about India. Earlier, it published yet another ‘survey’ report to claim that nationalism is driving the fake news in India – a survey based on about 20 Indians out of 1.4 billion people!

This is not merely rhetoric.

The BBC/CIR agenda was not merely to hype an insignificant disinformation campaign but part of a much larger and much-maligned agenda. The persistent attempt to paint an image of fake news/ misinformation in India through motivated/ distorted reports is very White and very British! It was not the first propaganda report, it would not be the last propaganda report from the British den.

Expect Brown Sepoys to continue peddling the ‘Reports’, with the same blind devotion.