How Aceh’s About-face on Rohingya Refugees Echoes in India (The Diplomat)

Right-wing disinformation networks in India are using events in Indonesia to revive fake news and hate speech campaigns targeting the Muslim minority group.

By Angshuman Choudhury

On December 27, just as the year was drawing to a close, a crowd of students broke through police barricades and barged into a temporary shelter housing Rohingya refugees in Banda Aceh, the capital of Aceh province, located at the northwestern tip of Indonesia’s Sumatra Island.

Many of the refugees had landed on Aceh’s shores just days earlier, after making a perilous sea voyage on rickety boats from their squalid camps in Bangladesh all the way across the Andaman Sea. According to a statement published by UNHCR Indonesia, the irate mob “forcibly put 137 refugees on two trucks, and moved them to another location in Banda Aceh.”

Remarkably, this mob attack instantly caught the imagination of Indian right-wing activists. Several posts praising the action of the local youth of Aceh began to appear on Indian social media platforms. A random sampling of some of the newer and older posts across X (formerly Twitter), Facebook, and Instagram shows how quickly xenophobic disinformation campaigners in one country can borrow from their compatriots in another in order to legitimize their own rhetoric.

Inspiration From Indonesia

A day after the Banda Aceh incident, a user named Jitendra Pratap Singh on X, whose profile picture shows him shaking hands with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, posted a video of the local students loading the Rohingya refugees onto trucks, and claimed (falsely) that the Indonesian government was sending the refugees “back to the sea.”

The post, which had more than 15,200 views and 1,100 likes at the time of writing, is filled with comments from like-minded, pro-Hindutva accounts on how the Indian government should follow the Indonesian example of deporting the refugees. One user, Chambal ka Thakur, claimed that the refugees sent back by Indonesia would now wind up in India via Bangladesh.

On January 7, Sarika Tyagi, a blue-check right-wing influencer with more than 15,000 followers and “Sanatani Hindu” written in her bio, posted an Al Jazeera video of the incident and noted that Indonesian students were demanding deportation of Rohingya refugees from their country. “Throw out all Rohingya infiltrators from India,” Tyagi demanded.

This story was originally published in Read the full story here .

Related Articles