NEW YORK—Indian authorities have blocked Sikh24 social media pages, including Sikh24’s Facebook page on Thursday. Users report that some internet service providers do allow the sites, while most in the north-western states, such as Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir have blocked Sikh24 completely. While still spottily enforced, the blocking has seemed to become stricter following the shooting death of a Sikh who was protesting peacefully.
Sikh24 has become a popular news source for Sikh news for the people in Punjab. With over half million followers on different social media channels, Sikh24 is also the source for global breaking news and editorials. Sikh24 has provided in-depth and daily coverage for incidents and events relating to the Sikh diaspora. We were the first to break the news of recent hunger strikes for human rights in India, including the campaign by S. Avtar Singh France, Gurbaksh Singh Haryana, Vikram Singh Dhanaula and now Bapu Surat Singh Khalsa.
“We believe that our coverage and support of human rights was the factor behind India censoring our Facebook page,” said Jagtar Singh, the senior editor for Asia and Punjab news. Jagtar Singh who recently traveled to Punjab to cover a major event stated that media in Punjab and rest of India is heavily influenced by Government policies. “Recently, the Punjab Government faced a backlash for shutting down the ABP Sanjha, Day & Night News, and other media outlets,” he added.
In addition to Sikh24 Facebook page, India has also banned the pages of NeverForget84 website, Sikhs for Justice and a number of other social media sites.
It has become well known within the tech community that India has ramped up censorship and blocking of websites and content that the government deems inappropriate. Users report they have been unable to access sites such as popular video streaming site Dailymotion, text exchanging site Pastebin, and code development site Github. Including Github, used by software developers globally, makes many of these filters non-nonsensical and shows there is no logical tech savvy organization behind the blocking. Github is an invaluable resource for programmers who are collaborating on software development and is the lifeblood of the booming tech Industry in India.
Much of the blocking appears to be fallout of a purported circular passed by the Department of Telecommunication (DoT). The reason for the blocking last year, which included 32 websites, was attributed to the online services carrying so-called “anti-India” content. To placate western powers, India branded these as motivated by terrorist organizations such as ISIS (Islamic State).
Tech savvy Indians have turned to paid and free VPN and proxy services to get around these types of blocks.
Sikhs globally are concerned because of the history of media blockades in India. Many times, these blockades preceded violence or genocide by the government as well as other forms of state sponsored terrorism. In 1984 they banned the news media from covering the attack on Sikhs’ holiest shrine in Amritsar as well as Sikh Gurdwaras all across Punjab state. The summary executions of men, women, and children did not hold the weight in the media it would have, had reporters been on the scene to witness the atrocities.
In the digital age, India has been one step behind, allowing Sikh media in the west to use technology to educate and inform Sikhs globally. As Indian infrastructure and education has improved, so has their technical expertise. The Indian government is now seemingly following in the footsteps of other fascist and totalitarian regimes and erecting great firewalls in order to keep the masses uninformed and ignorant.