India’s interior ministry cut mobile internet services in several areas around New Delhi over the weekend to “maintain public safety”.
This came as protesting farmers began a one-day hunger strike after a week of clashes with authorities that left one dead and hundreds injured.
Angry at new agricultural laws that they say benefit large private food buyers at the expense of producers, tens of thousands of farmers have been camped at protest sites on the outskirts of the capital for more than two months.
Indian authorities often block local internet services when they believe there will be unrest, although the move is unusual in the capital.
At the main protest site near the village of Singhu on the northern outskirts of the city, there was a heightened police presence on Saturday as hundreds of tractors arrived from Haryana, one of two states at the centre of the protests.
“Many farmers’ groups have joined the protest site since last night,” Mahesh Singh, a 65-year-old farmer from Haryana told Reuters. “They have come to show their support and more farmers are expected to come in the next two days.”
Farm leaders said the hunger strike by hundreds of protesters, primarily at Singhu, was planned to coincide with the anniversary of the death of Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi, in order to show Indians that the demonstrations were non-violent.
“The farmers’ movement was peaceful and will be peaceful,” said Darshan Pal, a leader of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha group of farm unions organising the protests.”
Sporadic clashes between protesters, police and groups shouting anti-farmer slogans have broken out on multiple occasions since then.