- NL Sena
Reports trickling in from Darjeeling suggest that the West Bengal government has shut down mobile Internet services in the town in an apparent bid to curb people’s social media access. Broadcast of local Nepali news channels have also been allegedly stopped.
The move is seemingly part of unprecedented security arrangements in Darjeeling town in anticipation of a funeral procession of the three Gorkha protesters killed in clashes with security forces on Saturday.
The move follows sporadic censorship of local Nepali news channels. Around 4 pm on Saturday, a few hours after intense clashes between police and protesters, Nepali news channel ABN put up the following post on Facebook:
“Interruption in ABN’s Broadcast has been reported across few networks. For all our viewers who are finding it difficult to access ABN Network, we will be streaming LIVE on Facebook also. Long Live Freedom Of Press.”
ABN has been off air in Darjeeling town since Saturday evening.
A source in the higher echelons of the security establishment of West Bengal government confirmed that strict action was being taken “to maintain law and order” in the area. “We are not going to take any chances,” the source said.
Some locals claimed that private broadband services were still active, suggesting that only mobile networks have been targeted. “Most people are out on the streets for protests where Wi-Fi is of no use,” a resident of Singamari said, requesting for anonymity. “This is being done so that people protesting in the town don’t coordinate their moves if they want to.”
Three people died in the West Bengal hill station on Saturday after supporters of Gorkha Janmukti Morcha clashed with security forces deployed by the state government. Locals say the toll is bound to go up. Around 10 wounded protesters have been admitted in a hospital in Sikkim’s Namchi town.
On Saturday Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said that the Modi government was encouraging the stir. She also accused GJM of hatching a “deep-rooted conspiracy” to throw law and order out of gear in Darjeeling. Banerjee alleged the party was getting help from underground insurgent groups in the northeast. Addressing media persons later in the day, Bhartiya Janata Party Chief Amit Shah dismissed the allegations, saying the Bengal CM sees “conspiracy in everything”.