NEW DELHI: In an unprecedented clampdown, internet services were suspended across major cities in Uttar Pradesh and a few sensitive ones in West Bengal and Karnataka as central and state governments doubled down on efforts to check the spread of rage against the new religion-based citizenship law.
Internet access over mobile phones was suspended in major towns in Uttar Pradesh, including Lucknow, Kanpur, Allahabad, Agra, Aligarh, Ghaziabad, Varanasi, Mathura, Meerut, Moradabad, Muzaffarnagar, Bareli, Firozadad, Pilibhit, Rampur, Saharanpur, Shamli, Sambhal, Amroha, Mau, Azamgarh and Sultanpur following explicit state government orders, telecom industry officials said. Broadband internet services were also suspended in some cities, including Lucknow and Ghaziabad.
The Uttar Pradesh government’s Additional Chief Secretary Awanish Kumar Awasthi in an order issued on December 19 stated that “messaging systems like SMS and WhatsApp and social media systems like Facebook and YouTube may be used extensively for the transmission of information like pictures, videos and texts that have the potential to inflame passions and thus exacerbate the law and order situation.”
“Therefore, in order to prevent the possible misuse” of messaging platforms and internet “to disturb the peace and tranquillity of the city and create further law and order situation and in order that normalcy may maintain” temporary suspension of SMS messages and mobile internet/data services of all telecom service providers is ordered for next 45 hours beginning 1500 hours on December 19, he said.
In West Bengal, a similar clampdown resulted in the shutdown of mobile internet in Malda, Murshidabad, Howrah, Barasat, North Dinajpur, Baruipur, Canning and Nadia.
In Karnataka, internet services were suspended in the Dakshina Kannada district of Mangalore city.
Internet connections were cut in parts of the national capital on Thursday with all three major service providers Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Reliance Jio following the government instruction.
The shutdown, ordered by Delhi police on Thursday, was never seen in any of the past protests, including the massive public outcry after the Nirbhaya gang rape and murder case in 2012 and anti-corruption movement by Anna Hazare. The outages have triggered a rage among netizen with some even comparing the crackdown to the Emergency.
Bharti Airtel Chairman Sunil Mittal had on Thursday stated that his company had complied with a government directive in this regard.
“There is a government order and we are just following it,” he had said.
Hashtags like #CAA_NRC_Protests (36.4K tweets), #ISupportCAA_NRC (96K tweets) and #JamaMasjid (20.8K tweets) were trending on the microblogging platform.
A Twitter user said, “Internet services are stopped in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh and Imposed 144. Feeling some type of way for Kashmiris. #internetshutdown #CAAProtest #Bhopal”.
Another user wrote, “Mobile internet shutdown and SMS services suspended in multiple cities of UP: Lucknow, Kanpur, Allahabad and Sambhal. @NetShutdowns @SFLCin #LetTheNetWork #IndiaAgaingstInternetShutdown #internetshutdown”.