India: using internet blocks and twitter blockades against farmers’ protests

India: using internet blocks and twitter blockades against farmers' protests' protests

In the face of weeks of protests by farmers on the outskirts of the Indian capital, local authorities have not only blocked the Internet, but in the meantime have also had hundreds of Twitter accounts suspended. Several districts directly bordering India’s capital territory of Delhi are affected by the internet blackouts, various media outlets report in unison. The Twitter suspensions affected more than 200 accounts accused of inciting violence in connection with the protests, according to the Guardian. Affected accounts include those of news sites, journalists and celebrities.

Peasants vs. Modi

As the British BBC explains, tens of thousands of Indian farmers have been camping outside the Indian capital for weeks. According to the report, they are protesting new laws that have weakened rules on the sale, pricing and storage of agricultural products. Farmers fear for their economic security and their protests represent the biggest crisis of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s tenure. After all, half the population of the billion-strong nation works in agriculture. But while Modi has offered a suspension of the laws, protesters are demanding their complete repeal.

In India, the authorities always respond to protests with Internet blocks, even if they are then overturned by the courts. Currently, the closures are affecting several districts of the state of Haryana, which directly borders Delhi and where the protesters have gathered. Recently, they were extended by the day, a political solution to the crisis does not seem to be in sight. This is also evident from the immense fortifications with which the security authorities have secured the roads on the Delhi border. The farmers speak of “warlike” Fortifications and photos show immense barricades that appear to be built to last.

Meanwhile, some of the Twitter blocks have been reversed after a few hours. This was reported, among others, by the political magazine Caravan, whose account was also not accessible to Indian users. According to the Guardian, the affected accounts were blocked for 12 hours so that only users outside India could see their posts. There has been no explanation of the lock. But an anonymous source had explained that the order was directed against accounts that had used the hashtag #ModiPlanningFarmersGenocide. This had been a call to violence.

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