Feb. 6 (UPI) -- Thousands of India's farmers protesting over new laws and and Internet crackdown on dissent blocked highways Saturday.
Farmers blocked roads with tractors and boulders in some places and squatted along highways in others, Voice of America reported. The farmers are protesting agriculture reforms lawmakers passed in September they fear will boost private agribusiness at the expense of small farmers' livelihoods.
Protesters have camped out since late November at three main sites on New Dehli's border, according to Voice of America. Meanwhile, the government has blocked the capital from farmers with concrete and steel barriers, and concertina wire and deployed nearly 50,000 security personnel.
Some farmers and opposition leaders have called the fortifications "warlike."
Authorities have also cut water, phone and Internet, Bloomberg reported.
Farmer unions called for "immediate reinstatement" of telecommunication services disrupted at protest sites outside the capital in a statement Friday after being backed by international campaign from celebrities such as singer Rihanna and environmental activist Greta Thunberg.
"The government's efforts to suppress the voice of disagreement continue," the union said in the statement.
Information Secretary Rohit Kansal said late Friday on Twitter that fourth-generation mobile Internet services are being restored in Kashmir.
India's government said in a legal notice to Twitter on Wednesday regarding its decision to restore the handles of users who tweeted #ModiPlanningFarmerGenocide on Jan. 26, that the tweets were "designed to inflame passions, hatred and factually incorrect."
India was the most economically impacted nation by restricted Internet use in 2020 at a cost of $2.8 billion, according to Top10VPN.
"Time and time again government authorities use times of political unrest to monopolize their control over information," Freedom House's New York-based research analyst on technology and democracy Allie Funk told Bloomberg. "That the world's largest democracy can carry out such sweeping abrogations with little or no pushback from other countries has just allowed the curbs to be normalized."
The United States has also criticized the Internet crackdown.
"We recognize that unhindered access to information, including the Internet, is fundamental to the freedom of expression and a hallmark of a thriving democracy," President Joe Biden's administration said in a statement to Bloomberg on Thursday.
Protesters have rejected the government's offer to suspend reforms for 18 months and a mediation process the Supreme Court established.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi's has said the laws make the agricultural sector more competitive, which will ultimately boost incomes.