In the midst of roaring protests against the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act, mobile services have been suspended in parts of Delhi on Thursday. This includes internet, calling and SMS services. All telecom operators- Airtel, Vodafone Idea, Reliance Jio, MTNL/BSNL- have been asked to suspend communication services in certain parts of Delhi in an order issued by the Delhi Police on Wednesday.
According to the government directive, mobile services was asked to be suspended in the walled city areas of North and Central districts, Mandi House, Seelampur, Jaffarbad, Mustafabad, Jamia Nagar, Shaeen Bagh and Bawana between 9 AM to 1 PM.
When approached by customers on twitter, the service providers Airtel and Vodafone confirmed receiving instructions from the government to suspend mobile services in parts of Delhi. Responding to queries posed by The Hindu, Vodafone also took to twitter to reply.
“Hi! We would like to inform you that there is a planned outage scheduled as per government directive. This will be rectified as soon as we receive the next directive from the authority. We appreciate your patience and cooperation for the same,” responded a Vodafone customer care executive.
“As per the directive received from the Government, Services are stopped at few location (Jamia, Shaheen Bagh, Bawana, Seelampur, Jaffrabad, Mandi House and part of Walled city.) As a result of this you will not be able to use services till 1pm at these locations,” added the customer care executive while tweeting from their official twitter handle.
Barricades have been put up by the Delhi Police along the city borders with Gurugram, leading to massive road jams. Seventeen metro stations, mostly along the Violet and Magenta lines have a;sp been closed down.
Section 144 has also been imposed by the Delhi Police in the area around Red Fort, barring the assembly of four or more people. This comes in the wake of a pan-Indian protest call given by a group of organizations against the CAA, the epicentres for the protests being Delhi and Mumbai.
Numerous protestors were detained near the Red Fort by the police after a march was taken out by them in opposition of the restrictive orders imposed there.
The government’s authority to shut down telecom and Internet services is derived from the Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Safety) Rules, 2017. According to critics, this rule gives the Union and state governments arbitrary powers to suspend Internet services, without providing accountability and transparency.
This unprecedented control of the government over internet usage in India, starting from Kashmir to Assam and now the National Capital, could prove to be problematic towards India’s aspiration to be a digital superpower.