This otherwise bustling city had been living under a curfew since December 11, which was lifted on Tuesday morning, as Guwahati appeared to limp back to normal life. The authorities late Monday had also told that broadband services were to be restored on Tuesday, however, they did not say anything on resumption of mobile internet services.
Guwahati resident Ali Akbar plays cards at home for amusement and does workouts in leisure time these days to beat boredom. The good old deck of cards is back in vogue in many households in the city whose people have been living without mobile internet since December 11 evening. “I used to play games online, or surf Facebook or browse YouTube for videos, but since mobile net is suspended, I have no option for online entertainment,” Akbar said. In his late 20s, he works as a desk staffer at an economy hotel in Guwahati, and says, life becomes quite monotonous in this kind of job. “Since, I cannot chat online with my friends while at home, I play cards with family members or invite friends over to join us,” the Guwahati youth said.
This otherwise bustling city had been living under a curfew since December 11, which was lifted on Tuesday morning, as Guwahati appeared to limp back to normal life. The authorities late Monday had also told that broadband services were to be restored on Tuesday, however, they did not say anything on resumption of mobile internet services. Thus cab aggregator services remained unavailable for commuters in Guwahati, with buses becoming a major source of transportation.
Internet services have been suspended in Guwahati since Wednesday evening to prevent misuse of social media in disturbing peace and tranquility as well as to maintain law and order, authorities had earlier said. A staffer of a hotel in Hatigaon, who did not wish to be identified, said, “We have suffered a huge loss in the last one week, as people could not book hotels online”. “We have about 20 rooms but only 4-5 been occupied daily since the curfew was clamped,” he said.
Many restaurant owners in the city, who have tied-up with food delivery services, also said, no internet, meant no online order, and so no earning from that platform. Biswajit Barman, 28, a support engineer who works at Janata Bhawan here, said, “Life without internet has becoming dull in office and at home”. “My job involves use of computer and access to internet, so, I mostly sit around these days. Also, many government employees yesterday had observed satyagraha at my office, and did not work but spent time idly in office,” he said.
In a lighter vein, he also said that many youth in Guwahati are “addicted to PUB-G video game” but now they are off it, because of no internet in mobile phones. “They see armoured men in virtual life while playing the game, but now, instead they have been seeing armed security forces in the streets for the past one week,” he said with a smile.
“Having no internet is a loss, but at least people are talking to each other, at home and in public transport, otherwise they will have their necks buried in their phones,” Barman said. A large number of Assamese youth use social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp or online entertainment services like Netflix and Amazon Prime. Akbar said, he has subscribed to Netflix for online shows, but “TV is all I am watching these days, mostly news channels to learn about the protests”.
Guwahati has been the nerve-centre of the protests, and people, both men and women, old and young, have been agitating over the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB), now an Act (CAA), alleging that it is “highly polarising and anti-Constitutional” and “goes against the Assam Accord”. In Goneshguri Market, vegetable vendors and fruit sellers hailed buyers as old Bollywood songs played on their mobile phones in the background. “I have a smart phone but no use of it much now, as I can only make calls with it. We used to see news on mobile phones or watch something entertaining to while away time in absence of customers. Earlier, time used to fly, but, now time seems to stretch,” said 37-year-old Raj Kumar, a fruit seller.
But, 48-year-old Upendrajit Kalita, who has been participating in the ongoing protests with full vigour, asked “Was there internet during independence movement or social media during Assam movement (1979-85)”. “All long-drawn struggles should surmount all odds. Every day is a challenge for us, but we will remain unrelenting in pursuit for our rights,” he said.