Citizenship Act: Internet suspended in several UP districts as state prepares for Friday protests

Citizenship Act: Internet suspended in several UP districts as state prepares for Friday protests

The administration in several Uttar Pradesh districts have ordered the suspension of internet services in anticipation of protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act on Friday. The shutdown will last for different lengths of time in different parts of the state.

The police have arrested 124 people for allegedly inciting violence through social media posts. “Ninety-three FIRs [first information reports] registered,” an unidentified officials told ANI. Action was taken on 19,409 social media posts – of these 9,372 were tweets and 9,856 were Facebook posts. At least 181 YouTube profiles were blocked. The police registered 327 FIRs against people involved in the protests and took preventive action against 5,558.

The districts where Internet has been switched off:

  • Ghaziabad: The district will remain offline till Friday 10 pm. This is the second time in as many weeks that internet services have been suspended. District Magistrate Ajay Shankar Pandey told PTI that the order was sent to all network service providers to prevent spread of misinformation and rumour-mongering.
  • Agra: Internet was suspended from 8 am on Thursday, and it will remain in place till 6 pm on Friday. “Violent protests have been witnessed against the CAA in Aligarh, Hathras, Firozabad and other districts,” ANI quoted Additional District Magistrate (City) Prabhakant Awasthi as saying. “According to sources, some organisations can stage protests, leading to a law and order problem.”
  • Saharanpur: Services will remain shut till Friday to prevent rumours in case protests occur, according to the police. Senior Superintendent of Police Dinesh Kumar said a letter had been sent to telecom service providers. Kumar said they were reaching out to local leaders and religious groups to ensure peace is maintained in the city.
  • Bijnor: Internet has been reportedly snapped in the district for 48 hours as a preventive measure.
  • Firozabad: The decision to suspend internet from Thursday morning was taken at a peace committee meeting conducted by top police officials. Inspector General (Agra range) A Satish Ganesh said all the necessary steps were taken to maintain calm. “This will continue till Friday evening to check spread of rumours,” he told Hindustan Times. “Besides, police and paramilitary forces staged a flag march in the sensitive areas.”
  • Other areas: Among other parts of the state where internet services were reportedly suspended are – Bulandshahar, Muzaffarnagar, Sambhal, and Aligarh. A flag march was conducted in Muzaffarnagar on Thursday evening, ANI reported.

At least 18 people have died in Uttar Pradesh since protests erupted last week following Friday prayers. The nationwide toll is 25. According to a report on December 23, 14 of 17 deaths in the state were because of firearm injuries. Earlier this week, the police admitted that one civilian in Bijnor was killed by a constable in “self defence”. The police have been accused of using excessive force to deal with the demonstrators. On Wednesday, HuffPost India reported that the police in Bijnor had detained at least five minors last week, and tortured them for 48 hours.

“As many as 288 policemen were injured in violence that erupted across 21 districts,” NDTV quoted Deputy Chief Minister Dinesh Sharma as saying. “Sixty-two of them suffered firearm injuries.”

The Citizenship Amendment Act, approved by Parliament on December 11, grants citizenship to six religious minority groups from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, provided they have lived in India for six years. The cut-off date is December 31, 2014. It has been widely criticised and called discriminatory because it excludes Muslims.

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