The Union Home Ministry’s decision to suspend internet at the three main protest sites at the capital’s borders — Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur — has created several hurdles for protesting farmers, already suffering from a patchy network over the past few days. From connecting to their families, staying updated on the news or sharing videos and photos on social media about the protest, many aspects of their day-to-day life have been hit, they say.
Singhu, epicentre of all Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) activities, had no mobile network on Saturday. Harinder from the SKM’s media team said that despite installing broadband internet in their room, information sharing was becoming a problem.
“Earlier, volunteers here would do live streams and upload from different spots using their own mobile internet. Now that is not possible. We all have to collect in this room and use the broadband, which is also not working well. It is creating a lot of issues,” he said.
“We used to get information from the other protest sites as well. Now if someone from Tikri or Ghazipur wants to send us some video or photo, they have to step out and then send it to us. There’s a considerable lag,” he added.
Prabhjyot Singh from Sangrur in Punjab, who has been at Singhu since the beginning of the protest, also said internet being down had cut him off from the outside world: “There is nothing to do here now… the internet was one way of connecting with the world outside, to get news about what is happening with regard to the farm laws. Now we can’t do that.”
At Ghazipur on Saturday afternoon, Pramod Kumar (52) walked a kilometre away from the protest site, struggling to get network so he could speak to his family. He said, “My mother, father, brother and three children are in Meerut and I have been here for over 20 days. They are curious about what is happening here and they want to find out if I am alright. But in the last two-three days, every time I call, it gets disconnected. If I try to send them WhatsApp messages, they don’t go through.”
Gurpreet Atwaal (26) said calls go through sometimes but he is unable to video call his sister in Canada and his mother who is in his hometown, Rudrapur: “As I have been alone at the protests since it started, they want to know my whereabouts and often get worried if I am unreachable. The other issue is that we cannot share photos and videos of the protest.”
Sudhir Kumar Ballu, a farmer from Chapauli village in UP, reiterated this: “I need the internet to speak to my family and do other work. How can they cut such services? Anything can happen here. We need updates on WhatsApp and Facebook. I also have to send videos and photos to my friends. I want them to come here and support us. Also, in case of emergency, it’s easier to send text or a photo on WhatsApp. How will I reply to such texts from my family? I have to walk through trenches and reach the market area to get signal.”
For Joginder Kardhan (60), a farmer from Muzaffarnagar, missing out on important updates regarding the protests has been a low point: “We need to coordinate who all are coming from our villages, see what is happening at other borders and what decisions the leaders are taking, but that is impossible without the internet.”
At Tikri too, farmers said that the internet has not been working for two days now. K D Pathak (25) said, “I manage to speak to my family in Ugara village in Haryana, but it is difficult to share updates and keep track of the news. It is a deliberate attempt by the government to ensure that we cannot coordinate with other farmers regarding the protests.”
Baljinder Singh (29), from Moga district in Punjab, had a similar concern. “Internet has been available on and off for the last five days. Since this morning, we have had zero network. We are not getting protest-related updates as we cannot use social media apps like WhatsApp and Facebook.”
(With inputs from Jignasa Sinha)
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