A non-profit organisation on Monday urged the government to block the multiplayer online video game BGMI-PUBG, claiming that it is a new avatar of the banned Chinese gaming app PUBG and that it poses a grave threat to the security, sovereignty and integrity of India. Reacting to the issue, RSS-affiliate Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM) said the government should thoroughly investigate “the antecedents and China influence” of the BGMI-PUBG app and take “immediate action if found in violation”. Urging the government to block BGMI-PUBG, the non-profit organisation, PRAHAR, wrote separate letters to Home Minister Amit Shah and Minister for Electronics and Information Technology Ashwini Vaishnaw, and said the Chinese multinational conglomerate Tencent Holdings Limited had launched PUBG in India which was one of the most downloaded games at the time of its ban in 2020. “In less than a year, PUBG was re-introduced in India by a front company of Tencent – Krafton under the new name BGMI — a move that was clearly meant to circumvent the Indian policymakers,” it claimed.
On paper, PRAHAR said, Tencent is the second-largest shareholder of Krafton with 15.5% equity. “However, it is said that Tencent holds additional interests in promoter’s various businesses, through private deals hidden from the public, giving them extraordinary control on Krafton,” the non-profit organisation said, adding, “Most global media also refer to Krafton as Tencent-backed Krafton.”
In its IPO prospectus, too, Krafton acknowledged its strategic partnership with Tencent, and the two companies together fought and won lawsuits in federal courts of the US and Germany in January 2022, PRAHAR said. “We therefore request your ministry to include Chinese app BGMI-PUBG among the list of banned apps in India under Section 69A of the IT Act in the interest of sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of the state, and public order and save millions of unsuspecting players from falling prey into the Chinese trap,” it stated. In its letters to the ministers, PRAHAR stated that Tencent has been under scrutiny in several countries, including the US, where a national security panel is investigating its stakes in multiple gaming companies. Recently, the US, too, has added sites operated by Tencent and Alibaba to its “Notorious Markets List” of businesses for allegedly trading in counterfeit goods, it added. “Free Fire was another gaming app that was banned on 14 February. Since Tencent also holds 18.7 per cent share in Free Fire, it raises a basic question: if Free Fire was banned, why was BGMI PUBG exempted?” the non-profit organisation said.
Since the government does not have a mechanism or the machinery to closely track the movements of companies like Tencent, banning apps like Chinese BGMI PUBG is in the interest of both the country and its people, it added. “We need to protect ourselves against the Chinese soft influence which has been gaining ground in the recent years in the form of trade dominance and technology invasion. Both these are a grave threat to India’s defence security and bargaining power during any potential military aggression,” PRAHAR’s national convenor and president Abhay Mishra said in a statement. In the “so-called new avatar”, the BGMI-PUBG is no different from the erstwhile PUBG with Tencent still controlling it in the background, he said. “Such camouflage activities are nothing, but Ravana disguised as a Sadhu.” he added. In its statement, PRAHAR said it has been joined by the Swadeshi Jagran Manch on the issue in seeking an investigation into the antecedents and China influence of BGMI-PUBG. “We urge the government to thoroughly investigate the antecedents and China influence of the BGMI-PUBG app and take immediate action if found in violation,” the non-profit organisation quoted SJM co-convenor Ashwani Mahajan as saying in his reaction to the issue.