The Kill Switch
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Indian officials shut down the Internet across the state of Punjab for a second day this week, cutting off access to around 27 million people as authorities search for a prominent Sikh separatist, the Washington Post reported.
The state government said the ban came as security forces launched operations to arrest Amritpal Singh, a preacher with a separatist movement that wants to establish a sovereign state called Khalistan in Punjab for followers of the Sikh religion.
Officials added that the move was also aimed at curbing potential unrest and “fake news.”
While the ban was initially implemented for only 24 hours, the state government extended it Sunday as authorities continued their search.
The blackout prompted complaints from Punjabi residents and businesses, as only essential text messages, such as bank transfer confirmation codes, were able to get through.
Analysts called it one of the broadest shutdowns in recent years in India, a country where authorities frequently shut down Internet access.
In 2022, government officials worldwide cut off their citizens’ Internet access 187 times. India accounted for nearly half of those shutdowns, according to Access Now.
Yet earlier this year, as G-20 delegates were welcomed to India as the group’s summit host, officials launched an extensive marketing campaign to promote their country, “Digital India,” as a global technological force.
Indian officials have frequently held up the country’s online payment and personal identity systems as a model for developing countries and even advanced economies.