Today is the third day when Indian authorities have shut down internet access for about 27 million people in Punjab. As the police keep searching for a Sikh separatist on the run, this is one of the worst blackouts in recent years.
The first blackout was announced on Saturday for only 24 hours. The Indian authorities launched an operation to arrest the popular leader of the separatist Khalistan Movement. Amritpl Singh started this movement to establish a sovereign state for all the Sikhs.
The blackout was extended for the third time today which will continue till midday on Tuesday. Although it has affected everyone in the state, it has been established according to the law to prevent any kind of violence and to stop any disturbance of peace and public order. The Punjab police have further justified it by saying that it will help stop the spread of “fake news.”
While the internet has been shut down, the local television has managed to capture videos showing all the Singh’s supporters who were holding swords and sticks while rallying on the roads of Punjab. But, police and military troops were deployed to stop the protest to maintain law and order. They have already arrested 112 people.
Most people know that Sikhs have always demanded an independent nation for themselves for decades now. Many clashes have occurred where people have even lost their lives. In June 1984, history recorded a very vital time for all the Sikhs and the Indians as the Indian army went inside the Golden temple to capture certain separatists. Many lives were lost and the temple was destroyed. As a consequence, Indira Gandhi was assassinated who had given the order to carry out this operation. There was a huge turmoil in the Sikh community and the country after this incident. This movement although outlawed by the government and is considered a national threat, a lot of people in the Sikh community support it.
The World Sikh Organization of Canada issued a statement on Sunday about this operation saying it is a draconian operation where “Singh’s detention may be used to orchestrate a false encounter and facilitate his extrajudicial murder.”
This incident has not only affected the people in Punjab but also those outside India. On Sunday, some of Singh’s supporters entered the Indian High Commission of London and vandalized the place. This has instigated the UK authorities to take action against it.
Alex Ellis, the British High Commission to India has stated these kinds of acts are disgraceful and not at all acceptable. Upon which the Indian Ministry of External Affairs replied that they hope that the UK government will take appropriate steps to identify the perpetrators and arrest them immediately.
The Mayor of London Mr. Sadiq Khan has tweeted saying these kinds of behaviour will not be tolerated in their city. A thorough investigation will be done for today’s events.
Looking back, it can be seen that internet shutdowns have started to occur quite frequently. After China, India has the largest digital population which has 800 million users. A report was comprised by a New York-based advocacy group in which they tracked internet freedom. The report showed that India had 84 internet cutdowns in 2022. This was also the 5th consecutive year, in which the world’s largest democracy has been shut down the most in the list.
Although government keeps justifying these shutdowns, the people of Punjab will keep suffering for at least till Tuesday.