More than a dozen accounts on social media sites X and Facebook that had been posting content about the ongoing farmers’ protest have been withheld in India this week in response to government demands.

The farmers are protesting to press their demand of a law guaranteeing a minimum support price for agricultural commodities and the implementation of the MS Swaminathan Commission Report’s wider recommendations on farming in India. A minimum support price is the rate at which the government buys farm produce.

Against the backdrop of the protests, the X accounts and Facebook pages of farmer leaders, including Sarvan Singh Pandher, Tejveer Singh Ambala, Ramandeep Singh Mann, Surjit Singh Phull and Harpal Sangha, have been withheld in India, The Wire reported.

The X accounts of journalists Sandeep Singh and Mandeep Punia, who were reporting on the farmers’ protest, were withheld on Wednesday afternoon. Additionally, the handle ‘Gaon Savera’, run by Punia, and his YouTube channel were also taken down.

Several other pages that have supported the protests have also been blocked in India, including @Tractor2twitr_P, Bhartiya Kisan Union (Shaheed Bhagat Singh). The Bhartiya Kisan Union (Shaheed Bhagat Singh) is among the organisations leading the protest in Haryana’s Ambala district.

Several accounts reporting on and supporting the ongoing farmers' protest have been withheld in India.

Mann told The Wire that he received a message that his X account was withheld on the night of February 12, when he was attending a meeting between farmers and Union ministers. He said he showed the message to Union minister Piyush Goyal, who said he was not aware of the matter.

“I asked Piyush Goyal how his government could ask us to believe them,” the farmer leader said. “I also asked Punjab NRI affairs minister Kuldeep Singh Dhaliwal, who was representing the Punjab government, if it was the AAP government who was getting our social media accounts blocked but he too refused to answer.”

The action against the social media accounts comes ahead of a strike in rural India called by the Samyukta Kisan Morcha, a collective of farmers’ unions.

In February 2021 as well, the government asked Twitter to remove hundreds of accounts that criticised the Centre over its handling of the large-scale farmer protests, which started in November 2020. The agitation at the time was against three agriculture-related laws that the protestors feared would make them vulnerable to corporate exploitation and would dismantle the minimum support price regime.

The social media platform initially refused, but eventually relented after its local employees were threatened with prison time. The laws were repealed in December 2021.

During the farmers’ protests in 2020-2021, the demonstrators had extensively used Twitter to amplify their demands and highlight alleged police excesses.

In June 2023, Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey said that Indian authorities threatened to shut the microblogging platform in the country if it did not act against the dissenting voices during the farmers’ protest.

“India, for example, had many requests of us around the farmers’ protest – around particular journalists that were critical of the government,” the former Twitter chief executive officer said in an interview posted on YouTube. “It manifested in ways such as ‘we will shut Twitter down in India’...and ‘we will raid the homes of your employees’ – which they did.”

Also read: Why farmers from Punjab and Haryana are marching to Delhi again