New Delhi: Multiple reports on Sunday, citing sources in the farmers' protest, stated that the social media accounts being used by the peasants agitating against the Centre's recent farm laws were blocked following a live broadcast. This, in turn, triggered a heated debate online over media censorship.
Reports stated that Facebook on this day shut down the account of the Kisan Ekta Morcha, the official page of the farmers' group which carried updates regarding the ongoing movement against the contentious farm laws.
In a subsequent post on Twitter, the farmers' group posted a screenshot from Facebook which showed that the page was unpublished because Facebook flagged the contents of the Kisan Ekta Morcha page as being against the "community standards on spam" of the website.
"This is what they can do when people raise their voices....... When they can't beat us ideologically," posted Kisan Ekta Morcha's 'IT-Cell' on Twitter.
The page had over 7 lakh followers, and political parties and personalities -- including the official pages of Shashi Tharoor and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) -- had been sharing the page to gather momentum for the movement.
AAP also took to its official handle on Twitter to condemn the reported case of Facebook closing Kisan Ekta Morcha's page, and stood in solidarity with the group.
Moreover, the farmers reportedly said that their Instagram page for the same, being used to convey updates regarding the movement, was also blocked from publishing new content.
According to the reports, the curbs came immediately after a live broadcast from the page at 7 PM, in which Swaraj India chief Yogendra Yadav announced that farmer unions will observe a day-long relay hunger strike on Monday at all protest sites to press for the repeal of the Centre's new agri laws.
However, Facebook later allowed the page to be back and the Instagram ban on uploading new content has also been removed.
The move also attracted a considerable amount of shade on social media.
The agitating farmer unions have been threatening of intensifying their stir.
"Farmers will begin a day-long relay hunger strike on Monday at all sites of protest against the new agri laws. It will be started by a team of 11 members at protests sites here," Swaraj India Chief Yogendra Yadav said at a press conference at the Singhu border.
He also urged people demonstrating against the laws across the country to observe a day-long hunger strike at their respective protest sites.
The talks between the farmers and the Centre were stalled on December 9 after five rounds as the farmer unions refused a Centre's proposal to amend the laws and a written assurance on the continuation of minimum support price (MSP).
Amid the deadlock, Bhartiya Kisan Union (Ekta Ugrahan), one of Punjab's largest farmer organisations involved in the stir, said it has been asked by a central agency to submit its registration details which allow it to receive foreign funds, and alleged that it was being targeted by the Centre.
The Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) stipulates mandatory registration of any outfit receiving foreign funds.
Questioning the timing of the move, a farmers' leader said, "They are using all tactics as their sole purpose is to defeat the agitation".
Asked how much foreign fund they have received recently, he said, "We are yet to calculate the exact amount." "The IT Department first conducted raids on 'Arhtiyas' (commission agents) because they are supporting the farmers' agitation. Now, as our outfit is a big one, the Centre is targeting us," alleged BKU (Ekta-Ugrahan) president Joginder Ugrahan.
"They are asking for details about NRI funds. The NRIs from Punjab help us with donations from their hard-earned money. They are supporting our agitation, what is the problem with that? Back home too, people support us," the BKU (Ekta-Ugrahan) chief asserted.
Several BJP leaders including union ministers have alleged that the agitation has been hijacked by Leftists, Maoists and separatists, a charge denied by the unions.