30 million people without the Internet

30 million people without the Internet
Amritpal Singh (centre) with his bodyguards

NOS News

In the Indian state of Punjab, the hunt for a state hero has far-reaching consequences for Sikhs: The police have shut down the internet, so that 30 million people can no longer connect. Over 110 of Amritpal Singh’s followers were arrested and weapons seized – Singh and his supporters carried firearms and swords.

The unrest began last month when hundreds of Singh’s supporters stormed a police station because one of his aides was being held there. On Saturday, police stopped Singh’s convoy and tried unsuccessfully to arrest him. The 30-year-old activist has been on the run ever since. According to the police, he had raised a militia whose emblem was found on the entrance to his house and on rifles and bulletproof vests that were confiscated.

Singh’s hunt also had consequences abroad: India’s diplomatic posts were attacked and smeared by Sikh activists in various parts of the world.

bloody process

The reason why the authorities are so keen on Singh is historical: in the 70s and 80s, there was already a powerful separatist movement in Punjab, which fought for an independent state of Khalistan, led by Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale.

At the behest of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, the army intervened with a heavy hand and killed Bhindranwale in June 1984 at the Golden Temple complex in Amritsar, the most important shrine of the Sikhs. He had taken refuge there hoping to be left undisturbed.

Less work

In the 1980s and 1990s, the Sikh struggle for independence was crushed in Punjab, resulting in 30,000 deaths. The Indian government still views the state with suspicion and is therefore cracking down on activists like Singh.

In the background, there is discontent among the large number of farmers in Punjab, who have less and less income. The unemployment rate is high among the youth. Singh has gained a huge following on social media and this seems to be the reason why the internet is inaccessible in Punjab: this is how the police want to stop Singh from amassing his followers.

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