The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) did not extend an order to suspend Internet beyond 11 p.m. on February 2 at Singhu, Ghazipur and Tikri--the three locations bordering Delhi where farmer groups continue to swell to protest against the three farm laws passed by Parliament last September.
However, protesters at the three locations said Net remained blocked on Wednesday as well.
International artist Rihanna and author Meena Harris, niece of U.S. Vice President Kamal Harris, had through tweets criticised the Internet shutdown at the protest site.
The MHA invoked the Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Safety Rules 2017) of the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885 to suspend Internet in Singhu, Ghazipur and Tikri from 11 p.m. on January 31 to 11 p.m. on February 2.
The emergency provisions were invoked by the MHA on January 26 and January 29 during the farmers’ protest.
Before this, the provision was used only twice- during the anti-CAA protests on December 19 and 20, 2019. The rules framed in 2017 empower the Union Home Secretary and a State’s Home Secretary to pass directions to suspend the telecom services, including Internet in an area “due to public emergency or public safety.”
A senior government official said the Net suspension order that was effective till 11 p.m. on February 2 had not been extended.
“There is still no Internet at the Singhu border today. It is still suspended, despite whatever the Home Ministry is saying,” said Harinder Singh, media coordinator for the Samyukt Kisan Morcha.
In order to post updates on the Kisan Ekta Morcha social media handles, or webcast a press conference, or even find out what the government was saying, the SKM media team must travel two km away from the Singhu border protest site in order to access the Internet, he said.
‘Bid to defame farmers’
“It’s just another attempt to defame the farmers. They know it very well that farmers at Singhu are not aware of these claims and they can’t counter these claims, so they are spreading their anti farmer propaganda,” he stated.
“Even journalists are not able to send the news properly and timely. So Internet is already banned, media entry is also disturbed and therefore, govt wants to become the only source of information. This is a clear attack on democracy and diverse opinions,” he added.