Surrey artist and Punjabi bhangra star Jazzy B has more than 1.2 million Twitter followers, but for the time being, any of them in India won’t see his content.
The performer, whose real name is Jaswinder Singh Bains, was notified this weekend that his account had been blocked in the South Asian country for allegedly violating India’s Information Technology Act.
The email from Twitter said the request had come at the behest of the Indian government.
Bains told Global News he believes he is being censored for using social media to support farmers protesting controversial new agriculture laws and talking about the 1984 Sikh massacre.
“It’s freedom of speech. I stood up for the farmers, what happened, the Sikh genocide in 1984. I’ve been always talking about it, vocal about it,” he said.
“I didn’t write anything wrong. It’s the history of what’s going on right now and what happened 37 years ago.”
Jazzy B continues support for Indian farmers despite Twitter block
Bains, 46, was born in India and moved to Canada as a child, where he kick-started his musical career.
He said he still feels a deep connection to India, and to the farmers who have now been peacefully protesting for more than six months.
“A lot of people are trying to say, oh we’re anti-India. We’re not anti-India,” Bains said.
“I love India, I was born there. That’s my country. People try and divide and rule, that’s not going to work.”
In a statement, a Twitter spokesperson said the company reviews valid legal requests under its own rules and local laws.
“If the content violates Twitter’s Rules, the content will be removed from the service. If it is determined to be illegal in a particular jurisdiction, but not in violation of the Twitter Rules, we may withhold access to the content in India only,” the spokesperson said.
“In all cases, we notify the account holder directly so they’re aware that we’ve received a legal order pertaining to the account.”
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The move comes as friction increases between India and social media companies over accounts and posts the country’s government wants removed, including those criticizing the farm laws and the government’s COVID-19 response.
Bains’ Twitter account remains accessible to social media users outside of India. He said his lawyer has tried to contact Twitter, but has yet to receive a response.
But he said the ban in India won’t stop him from talking about things.
“Every person has the right to speak their mind on social media,” he said.
“You can’t silence me. You can block my Twitter, my social media. I will always talk about this and I will always stand with my own people, my community. It doesn’t matter what community it is, what race, if something is being done wrong here I will raise my voice.”
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