Anti-CAA stir: Internet, messaging services suspended in parts of Delhi for hours

New Delhi, December 19

In a never seen before crackdown on information flow in a large metropolis in India, mobile internet and messaging services were on Thursday shut for hours in certain parts of the capital that were hotspots of anti Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protest.

The shutdown, ordered by Delhi police, 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.

Thursday's outage triggered a rage among Netizen with some even comparing the crackdown to the Emergency.

The services that stopped WhatsApp and other popular messaging apps as well as access to internet on mobiles at 9 am in certain parts of Delhi, resumed only after 1 pm.

Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Reliance Jio -- the three top mobile service providers -- complied with Delhi police order, that asked them to even stop voice calls in the areas hit by protests. However, an official at one of the telcos, said voice calling was largely unaffected and only internet services were affected.

The directive from office of the Deputy Commissioner of Police, Special Cell, New Delhi was issued to all telecom service providers,  including Airtel, Vodafone Idea, Jio and BSNL/MTNL.

In view of the prevailing law and order situation, it is directed that communication of all types -- voice, SMS and internet -- be halted from 9 am to 1 pm on December 19 in walled city areas of North and Central districts, Mandi House, Seelampur, Jaffarbad, Mustafabad, Jamia Nagar, Shaeen Bagh and Bawana, the order said.

"This should be treated as an absolute direction and compliance should be reported," the Delhi Police directive added.

Bharti Airtel Chairman Sunil Mittal said the company had complied with a government directive in this regard.

"There is a government order and we are just following it," Mittal said while speaking to reporters after a pre-Budget meeting with Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman here.

There was no official word from other service providers, but sources said that services have largely been restored in the affected areas.

Meanwhile #IndiaAgainstCAA (115k tweets) and #CitizenshipAmmendmentAct (31K Tweets) were trending, and #Emergency2019 (23.9K Tweets) and #internetshutdown (13.4K Tweets) were being actively used by netizens to voice their views.

A Twitter user pointed out that Delhi is seeing its first internet shutdown.

"The wall has been breached, it has never happened in a metropolitan city before. Shutdowns are supposed to be last-resort tools for public emergencies, not weapons to prevent dissent," the tweet said.

Another user highlighted that "after internet being shutdown in Assam, Meghalaya, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, same situation has happened in Delhi also...But protests is ON fire BJP will have to take step back".

People also tweeted images of jams at Delhi-Gurgaon border as traffic moved at snail pace amid all the protests. But, despite the shutdown for a few hours, multiple videos of protests from various parts of the city surfaced on the microblogging platform.

Office goers had a harrowing time reaching workplace, prompting companies like HCL to allow its employees to opt for 'work from home'.

HCL Technologies issued an advisory for all employees to exercise caution during travel.

"Employee safety and security is of utmost concern at HCL Technologies and in cognizance of this we are issuing an advisory for all employees to exercise caution during travel. We have recommended the employees to avail Tele-Commuting option (Work From Home), if required," an HCL Technologies spokesperson said.

Besides this, the company also arranged transportation facilities to provide pickups/drops till the nearest possible point; it also sensitized employees to take the safest route possible.

"We are also proactively monitoring the situation and providing full support to our employees wherever required," the spokesperson added. — PTI

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