Facebook and Instagram accounts being used by the farmers protesting the government’s new agricultural laws were blocked on Sunday following a live broadcast, the demonstrators alleged, stoking a debate about online censorship. The pages were restored around three hours later.
Managers of Kisan Ekta Morcha, one the biggest pages being used for the movement, said their page was removed by Facebook which claimed it had gone against its community standards on spam.
Their page on Instagram, which is also owned by Facebook that is battling accusations of favouring the ruling BJP and the government to protect its business interests, has faced similar action and was not being allowed to share new posts, the farmers said.
According to the demonstrating groups, the curbs came just after a live broadcast by Swaraj India chief Yogendra Yadav, who is one of the leaders of the protest, where he announced that the farmers will take part in an indefinite, relay hunger strike starting Monday.
Mr Yadav also called on people to bang plates during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s next monthly radio broadcast Mann ki Baat, due next Sunday, to ask the Prime Minister “when will you listen to our (the farmers’) baat”.
The PM had urged people to bang plates in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic to thank frontline workers.
Thousands of farmers have been camping on the borders of New Delhi for over three weeks, demanding the central government roll back the reforms intended to bring investment in the antiquated farm sector but which the farmers say will leave them at the mercy of big corporations.
The protesters, led by around 40 unions, have repeatedly rebuffed Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his ministers’ attempts to reach a compromise, in what has become the biggest challenge from the country’s farmers in his six-year rule.