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27 Million Indians Lose Internet Access as Punjab Police Hunt Sikh Separatist



India is again immersed in a statewide internet blackout in Punjab as authorities search for a Sikh separatist. Amritpal Singh is on the run for allegedly spreading potential unrest, prompting local authorities to shut down the internet over the weekend and extended it on Monday for another 24 hours, The Washington Post reported.

Punjab authorities cut the internet for the 27 million residents to curb unrest and sensor what it’s calling “fake news.” Singh gained prominence within the separatist movement, Khalistan, which promotes the idea of creating a sovereign state in Punjab. His popularity skyrocketed in February when his supporters collectively stormed a police station where another supporter was imprisoned.

The Indian government outlawed the Khalistan separatists who now have supporters across Punjab and have demanded an independent nation for decades. The Asian Times reported that military and police were deployed to Punjab on Sunday and arrested 112 people for protesting with swords and sticks on the roads demanding Singh’s freedom.

Supporters, who are also spread out across England and Canada, stormed the Indian Embassy in London, breaking windows and waving the Khalistan flag. The World Sikh Organization of Canada (WSO) issued a press release on Sunday, saying it “condemns the security operations in Punjab” and the subsequent intent to capture and arrest Singh.

WSO President Tejinder Singh Sidhu said in the release, “The suspension of the internet in Punjab along with deployment of paramilitary forces to arrest Bhai Amritpal Singh and other Sikh activists is deeply disturbing. State-wide blackouts have been a tool of genocide and were used in 1984 to facilitate the mass killing of Sikhs by the Indian state.”

He continued, “The Indian state has once again demonstrated that it is willing to suspend civil liberties arbitrarily, without justification, using colonial-era laws. Today’s extreme and oppressive measures appear to have clear political motivations to silence Bhai Amritpal Singh and intimidate his supporters into silence.”


India was ranked as the number one country in the world for carrying out internet shutdowns for five consecutive years after implementing a reported 84 internet blackouts last year alone. This tactic has been used repeatedly for decades to facilitate alleged national security measures but has also been used to “silence dissent and limit the rights to freedom of press and expression under the guise of “maintaining law and order,” according to an American Bar Association study.

Sidhu said the extreme measures Punjab authorities are using to capture Singh shows the government has “clear political motivations to silence Bhai Amritpal Singh and intimidate his supporters into silence.” He added the arrests and internet blackouts are “draconian measures,” and demanded that those in custody “be provided with due justice and must not be harmed.”

Source: Gizmodo

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