Internet services in and around Darjeeling hills were disrupted since the wee hours of Sunday following damage to a fibre optic cable network, posing a handicap for Gorkhaland agitators who were coordinating between themselves through the internet.
A senior official of a private operator told HT that a fibre optic cable network that runs through Guwahati and north Bengal was damaged during construction work on the inter-state highway. This is a network that is used by many operators.
The disruption triggered partial outage since late night on Saturday. There was, however, less trouble with telephone voice calls.
An official of a private operator told HT that efforts were on to locate the damaged spot. He also said Internet services might be restored by Sunday evening.
The damage posed a setback to the agitators who had been using internet-based messaging app WhatsApp and social media platform Facebook heavily to exchange information, send pictures and videos since trouble began on Thursday morning after police raided the office of Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) at Patlaybas.
Smartphones turned out to be an extremely useful tool for the agitators who recorded videos from one clash and sent it to agitators at other spots.
Since Thursday, Morcha supporters who went into hiding were using the Internet not only to coordinate with their followers, but also to exchange information with the media.
On Saturday when the government claimed there were no deaths in Darjeeling, Morcha supporters sent mediapersons pictures of the body of one of their supporters through WhatsApp. It was played on TV channels and on news websites, causing some embarrassment to the administration.
“Communication is vital to the agitation, especially with our leaders going underground. With interruption of Internet services, planning and coordination has become the first casualty,” said a GJM supporter.
Morcha president Bimal Gurung who went into hiding since the police action in GJM office, sent two video recordings of his statements to followers and the media.
He criticised the government in one of those. In another, he urged the people to come out and join the rallies that the agitators would take out on Sunday with the bodies of the GJM supporters who fell to bullets of security forces on Saturday.
Video clips of agitators chasing policemen at Singamari on Saturday were sent by the agitators to their counterparts to other spots such as Ghoom and Kalimpong where thousands gathered, turning the situation tense and posing a challenge for the administration.
An hotelier in Siliguri, however, said the situation was relatively normal in the plains.