Internet services have been suspended in Bhainsa, a small town in northern Telangana, in the wake of communal clashes. Mobile internet has been suspended in the town to prevent people from sharing any content that could aggravate the situation. The small town in Nirmal district, not far from the Maharasthra border, had last experienced an internet shutdown in January 2020 following similar communal clashes. The Hindu and Times of India were the first to report on the internet shutdown.
Vishnu S. Warrier, Superintendent of Police, Nirmal district told MediaNama that the internet shutdown was put in place on the morning of Monday (February 8); it is still in place at the time of publishing this post. “The issue was because of some communal incident here. For ensuring peace and tranquility, we had to suspend internet due to rumours spreading on social media […] By tonight it will be lifted,” he said.
The internet shutdown order is applicable only within a 10-kilometre radius in the town, and does not affect any other areas within Nirmal district, Warrier added. The SP had earlier told The Hindu that the shutdown was a temporary measure. When asked about this, he told MediaNama that more permanent measures would involve measures such as community policing to bring back normalcy to the town.
The violence in the town had reportedly begun on Sunday. Over 12 people have been injured and hurt, including a Telugu media journalist, and 50 have been taken into custody. The Times of India reported that the police also used a drone to keep tabs on movements in the town.
In January 2020, following a similar outbreak of violence in Bhainsa, the Telangana government suspended internet in four districts: Nirmal, Adilabad, Mancherial and Asifabad. Bhainsa also saw violence in May 2020, leading to the imposition of Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code.
India has seen the most number of internet shutdowns in the world over the last few years. Earlier this year, the farmer protests in the National Capital Territory (NCT) region led to suspension of internet and even SMS services in Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur. Meanwhile, last month the Indian government restored 4G services in Jammu & Kashmir, where internet had been throttled to 2G speeds or suspended altogether since August 2019.