India cuts internet to 27 million as Punjab police hunt Sikh separatist

Indian authorities have blocked internet access for about 27 million people in the state of Punjab for a third straight day – one of the country’s most extensive blackouts in recent years – as police search for a Sikh separatist on the run.

The Punjab government initially announced a 24-hour internet ban on Saturday as authorities launched an operation to arrest Amritpal Singh, a popular leader within the separatist Khalistan movement that seeks to establish a sovereign state for followers of the Sikh religion.

The internet shutdown – which affects everyone in the northern Indian state – was extended by the government for a third time to midday Tuesday under a law that allows the connection to be cut to “prevent any incitement to violence and any disturbance of peace and public order.”

Police in Punjab have justified the internet shutdown as a means to maintain law and order and stop the spread of “fake news.”

Dramatic scenes captured on video and broadcast on local television showed hundreds of Singh’s supporters, some holding swords and sticks, walking through the streets of Punjab. Police and paramilitary troops were deployed across several districts in the state in a bid to maintain law and order.

At least 112 people have been arrested, Punjab police said Sunday, while Singh remains on the run.

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