The internet, even when it works, is extremely slow in and around the protest sites near Delhi’s borders. Most farmers, supporters and even the media, who arrive by the hundreds at each site daily are hampered by this in many ways. Most who are coming from out of town, often for the first time, or are driving down in extreme fog, negotiating various diversions that come up, have been depending on navigation devices, apps, online maps to get here. Online messaging services are also heavily used to meet logistical challenges, share what supplies are needed at each protest site, are arranged quickly, and delivered.
By Saturday, all internet services were suspended by orders of the Union Home Ministry purportedly to “maintain public safety and averting public emergency” in the Singhu, Ghazipur, Tikri borders and adjoining areas. The Home Ministry order reads: “… it is necessary and expedient to order the temporary suspension of internet services in the areas of Singhu, Ghazipur and Tikri, and their adjoining areas in the NCT of Delhi from 11 PM on January 29 to 11 PM on January 31.” The services have also been slow in areas around the border that extended well into Delhi.
It was the viral video of Rakesh Tikait breaking down and refusing to leave his supporters, especially the Sikh farmers and the elderly at the mercy of security forces on the night of January 28 that had led to thousands of supporters arriving overnight at Ghazipur from Across Uttar Pradesh and Haryana. They continue to arrive in large numbers. “The net is slow, but we reached somehow,” said one who had driven down with food and water, and kept a live video chat on throughout the way. “We kept looking at social media to keep a tab on what was going down at the borders,” said another farmer. Scores of those who attend live stream the speeches, and the visuals from each site, so the message and the news travels far and wide as it unfolds.
Internet was also suspended around protest sites in Delhi on January 26 when the situation was tense, and chaos was reported from the Nangloi area, where the police launched tear gas, lathicharge on farmers groups, and some people threw stones at police. The Haryana government had, on Friday, issued an order shutting down internet services in 14 districts till January 30, these districts are: Ambala, Yamuna Nagar, Kurukshetra, Karnal, Kaithal, Panipat, Hisar, Jind, Rohtak, Bhiwani, Charkhi Dadri, Fatehabad, Rewari and Sirsa. Only voice calls will be allowed in these areas. Earlier the internet had already been shut in Sonipat, Palwal and Jhajjar areas of the state.
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