Amid growing tension between the Indian government and Muslims across the country over a new anti-migrant law, authorities have cut off internet access in New Delhi, according to multiple sources, in an attempt to deter protests.
Google also shut down access to several social media apps for a short period.
The government’s offensive began on December 18 with the shutting down of social media apps for three hours, like Twitter, Facebook, and WhatsApp, in what many interpreted as a warning.
The morning after the internet blockade, some parts of New Delhi observed a small protest, where Muslims broke into the nearby Khan Market district, reports Reuters.
“Some madrassas went ahead with their plans to protest, on the morning of Sunday December 17,” a senior police officer told The Guardian. “But what they failed to do was that as a result of our intelligence we disconnected the internet.”
The officer, who didn’t want to be named for fear of victimization, continued: “We don’t want people to do any violence, for them to take to the streets, go to their localities, act against the interests of people and defame the holy religion of Islam. This we must avoid at all costs and so we took the steps.”
Though some parts of India have expressed frustration with the new anti-migrant law, and social media actors have voiced their disapproval of the measure, Muslim protesters may be seeing a direct effect of the government’s actions.
The New York Times reports that “India’s estimated 1.37 billion people are 1.75 billion. More than 45 percent are Muslim, according to a 2016 government census.”
The Muslim population is growing exponentially. This growth is due in large part to migrants from Pakistan and Bangladesh who have settled in India, the Times reports. The new anti-migrant law (a summary of which can be found here) aims to stop the growth of India’s Muslim minority.
The new law requires citizens to formally register for identity papers and complaints. In the process, authorities can choose to recognize the documents of foreign nationals, such as those obtained by Pakistani and Bangladeshi migrants, or refuse to recognize them at all.
The Indian government is also facing international criticism over this new law.