Amid protests across the nation over new upcoming citizenship laws in India, a major internet provider called Airtel said in a now-deleted tweet that the government has ordered mobile internet, voice and SMS services to be suspended in some places of the capital city of New Delhi.
This is alarming because it shows that the government of the country is limiting the efforts of the citizens to express their views on many issues that plague India now and limit their ability to coordinate the protests.
The news follows protests in various cities and towns against the National Citizen Registration Act (NRC) and the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). At the same time, Section 144 of the Indian Penal Code is imposed in cities such as Bangalore and parts of New Delhi. This effectively prohibits the concentration of four or more people into one region, and those involved in "illegal concentration" can be detained for participating in riots.
It is also worth noting that this was exactly when the Delhi government had planned to launch free Wi-Fi services across the city of New Delhi.
The NRC is a bill to create a database of citizens who can prove their citizenship with official documents that document their origin in India. It currently applies only to the northeastern state of Assam, which hosts many tribal communities.
The CAA is a law that allows the government to accelerate citizenship for Hindus, Sikhs, Parsi, Buddhists and Christian immigrants from the Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, but not Muslims and not people from other neighboring countries such as Sri Lanka and Tibet.
Together, these two pieces of legislation could see many Muslims being displaced from India, where it is incredibly difficult to document origin their.
India has implemented more than 350 Internet outages across the country since 2014 - the most important being the 135-day ongoing power outage in the old state of Jammu & Kashmir (now operating only in the Kashmir Valley). The aforementioned pause took place after the central government announced its intention to revoke Jammu & Kashmir's special constitutional regime, forcing it to comply with national law.
The Bhartiya Janata Party, which is currently in power in India, goes beyond anything that has ever happened in recent history, limiting the freedom of expression of citizens. The current blockade of mobile internet in the capital is just one indication of what will happen in the short term in the rest of the country.