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Modi govt blocks BBC Punjabi’s Twitter account

New Delhi, March 28 (KMS): Narendra Modi-led fascist Indian government has blocked BBC Punjabi’s Twitter account in India for exposing its atrocities on Sikhs and other minorities.

The development comes amid ongoing police crackdown against pro-Khalistan leaders and activists including Amritpal Singh in the Indian state of Punjab.

A message on BBC News Punjabi’s account page says: “Account has been withheld in India in response to a legal demand.”

Amritpal Singh is the leader of the “Waris Punjab De” (Heirs of Punjab), an organisation which backs the decades-old movement for a separate state for Sikhs called Khalistan.

On 18 March, police in Punjab launched a statewide crackdown, including a clampdown on internet services. Police planned to arrest him in Jalandhar but he managed to escape with the help of his supporters.

On 20 March, as part of an internet shutdown across Punjab, several local journalists including Gagandeep Singh, affiliated with local news outlet ProPunjabTV, and Kamaldeep Singh Brar of the daily The Indian Express had access to their Twitter accounts withheld. Overall, more than 120 accounts have been suspended amid the pursuit of Amritpal Singh, according to filings released by Twitter, Indian media reported.

In a latest development, a purported selfie of fugitive Khalistani ideologue Amritpal Singh enjoying an energy drink, along with aide Papalpreet Singh, has gone viral on social media. The photo depicts Amritpal Singh, for whom a manhunt has been launched, wearing a jacket. However, police have not confirmed the timing of the photo and even its authenticity.

Earlier in March, the Mod government blocked at least six youtube channels for promoting pro-Khalistan sentiments. Apurva Chandra, the secretary for information and broadcasting, said that during the last ten days, six to eight foreign-operated YouTube channels had been disabled. He claimed that the Punjabi-language channels were attempting to stir up unrest in Punjab.

The Indian government had, in January, banned the BBC documentary ‘The Modi Question’ that exposed the role of Narendra Modi in the 2002 anti-Muslim Gujarat riots. Following the release of the documentary, the Indian income tax Department conducted raids at the BBC offices in Delhi and Mumbai, subjecting its staff to harassment and intimidation.

Meanwhile, the latest action against the BBC News Punjabi’s Twitter account has drawn criticism from journalists and observers in India.

“You have a media picking up plants, running pics of Amritpal without any sourcing, making any claim they want, but the journalism that gets pulled down on twitter by BBC Punjabi is one that adheres to the requisite professional standards. All this govt wants left is propaganda,” wrote The Caravan’s Hartosh Singh Bal.

Commentator Jas Oberoi wrote: “The verified account of BBC Punjabi has been banned in India for covering Indian govt’s crackdown in Punjab.”

“If everything is right in Punjab then why ‘gag’ order of withholding Twitter accounts of journalists reporting from Punjab? After journalists, now BBC Punjabi twitter account has been withheld in India. Why can’t we access information from Punjab? Who is afraid of critical media?” Wrote lawyer Kawalpreet Kaur.

Journalist Rana Ayyub wrote: “Why was BBC Punjabi not publishing the exclusive leaks, handouts, photographs, interviews handed over by the government? Why was it trying to do independent journalism?”

Journalists have also questioned whether this will become the “new normal” in the state.

Around 200 of Amritpal Singh’s supporters and aides have been arrested.

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