Jalandhar/Chandigarh: In the wake of the scheduled ‘Delhi Chalo’ farmers’ protest on February 13, the Haryana government on Saturday evening announced the suspension of mobile internet services from February 11 to February 13 in Ambala, Kurukshetra, Kaithal, Jind, Hisar, Fatehabad and Sirsa including Dabwali districts.
Farmers from Punjab and Haryana under the banner of the newly floated Kisan Mazdoor Morcha (KMM) led by senior farmers’ leader from the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) non-political and Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee (KMSC) president Sarvan Singh Pandher are organising the February 13 ‘Delhi Chalo’ protest.
In an order, additional chief secretary, Haryana government T.V.S.N. Prasad said that in view of the call for a farmers’ march/agitation given by certain organisations,”There is a clear potential of disruption of public utilities, damage to public assets and amenities and disturbance of public law and order in above mentioned districts on account of misuse of internet services by way of spread of inflammatory material and false rumours, which are being/could be transmitted/circulated to the public through social media/messaging services on mobile internet services, SMS services and other dongle services.” All Haryana telecom operators have been directed to ensure compliance with the order.
The order has been passed under Section 5 of Indian Telegraph Act, 1885 and Rule 2 of temporary suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Safety) Rules 2017.
The order further read, “I hereby order the suspension of the mobile internet services, bulk SMS (excluding banking and mobile recharge) and all dongle services etc. provided on mobile networks except the voice calls in the jurisdiction of districts Ambala, Kurukshetra, Kaithal, Jind, Hisar, Fatehabad and Sirsa of Haryana State.”
In a video message on X, Kisan Mazdoor Morcha (KMM), coordinator and the president of KMSC Sarvan Singh Pandher said, “We have got to know from the media that the Haryana government has decided to suspend internet services, which is totally inhumane. Converting Haryana into an open jail is not good. This cannot be the decision of a democratically elected government. On one hand the Central govt is talking to farmers through the Punjab government and on the other hand they are conducting raids and creating trouble for our women. We condemn the Haryana government’s attitude.”
Pandher also said, “We appeal to the Haryana people and farmers that the entire country and Punjab stand with them. Hum log peaceful tarike se February 13 ka protest karenge, jo ‘aar-paar’ ka hoga (We will lead the February 13 protest peacefully, which will be a do or die battle). We have also conveyed to the mediators between farmers and the Centre to ask the Haryana DGP to stop all that they are doing to target farmers.”
Reacting to the internet ban order, Ranjit Singh Raju, president of the Gramin Kisan Mazdoor Samiti, Sri Ganganagar district, Rajasthan said, “Farmers do not need any network for their protest. Farmers’ own network is very strong. Rather this is a congratulatory sign for us. Modi government is afraid, hence indulging in such tactics. Farmers will be moving to Delhi on February 13.”
Notably, the internet ban order came in the backdrop of the first round of talks between a delegation of the Central government, Punjab chief minister Bhagwant Mann and farmers’ union leaders, who met in Chandigarh on February 8. Union ministers Piyush Goyal, Arjun Munda and Nityanand Rai had assured the farmers that they would discuss their demands with the ministries concerned. Even the Punjab chief minister had claimed that farmers and the government had reached a consensus on their demands.
Ever since the KMM gave a call for the Delhi Chalo protest, farmers across Punjab and Haryana have been gearing up for the march. Farmers have been gathering dry ration for six months, tents, beds, fans and other essentials in the villages.
The Haryana police has barricaded highways leading to Delhi and was also conducted late night raids on the houses of the farmers. “Haryana police are reaching our houses without lady police late at night and questioning our women about our whereabouts. We are being targeted just because we are raising our voice against PM Modi’s dictatorial attitude. The Modi government has failed to implement MSP law, justice to Lakhimpur Kheri victims, compensation to farmers martyred in farmers agitations and pension for their welfare. We will not sit quietly,” said a farmers’ union leader.
It is noteworthy that some of the big farmers’ unions including BKU Ugrahan and original SKM faction under Dr Darshan Pal, Yadvindra Yadav and others distanced themselves from the ‘Dilli Chalo’ protest call.
In a statement last week, SKM stated, “The national coordination committee of SKM held an online meeting and clarified that SKM has not given any call for ‘Dilli Chalo’. SKM has nothing to do with the decision of certain kisan organisations to protest in Delhi on February 13.”
But Jagjit Singh Dallewal’s SKM (non-political) faction believes that once their protest reaches Delhi, all major unions will join them since the issues they are fighting for are genuine and legitimate.