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Instagram Blocked and then Unblocked #Sikh Hashtag. Why is 'Sikh' Trending amid Farmer Protests?

Farmers protest at Singhu border against the Centre's farm laws. (PTI)

Farmers protest at Singhu border against the Centre's farm laws. (PTI)

Since the last week, hundreds of farmers from Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan and UP poured into New Delhi to protests against the central farm laws and demanding a repeal of the laws or the introdcution of MSP.

Amid ongoing farmers’ protests, First, Facebook-owned social media platform Instagram seems to have disabled the #Sikh hashtag on its platform. It later confirmed that the hashtag is back. The incident came to light after social media users on Saturday complained that the #Sikh hashtag was not searchable on the photo-sharing platform. A similar incident was reported by users on Facebook.

This is not the first time that Instagram or Facebook has blocked the #Sikh hashtag.

A similar trend was noticed earlier in the year when both Facebook and Instagram admitted that the #Sikh hashtag had unwittingly been blocked for months. The platforms only unblocked the hashtag after users complained and accused the Mark Zuckerberg-owned platforms of discrimination.

As per reports, the #sikh hashtag was “temporarily blocked" again because of reports from the community for violating Instagram’s Community Guidelines. The ban was soon disabled and the hashtag has started appearing again.

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The word ‘Sikh’ also became one of the top trends on social media platforms like Twitter as well and amassed over 2.5 million posts.

But why is ‘Sikh’ trending?

There could be several reasons.

1. Police clashes with Sikh farmers

On November 25, hundreds of farmers from Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh started marching toward New Delhi to protest against three controversial farm laws. While the farmers of Punjab and Rajasthan received support from their respective state governments for the agitation, farmers from UP and Haryana found no reprieve. Before the protesting farmers were allowed entry into Delhi on November 27, several clashes between police personnel and farmers took place. Several images of Sikh farmers from Punjab and Haryana went viral, provoking anger among people from the Sikh community as well as outside.

2. Guru Parb

Monday, November 30, also happens to be Guruparb, the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism. The festival is celebrated by Sikhs across the world and is one of the most important festivals for the community.

3.Fake news

As the farmers’ agitation developed in the capital, reports of pro-Sikh separatist elements also rose. Critics of the protests claimed that pro-Khalistani elements had seeped into the farmer protests. Many such reports and videos turned out to be fake. A particular video of pro-Khalistani leaders chanting pro-Khalistan and pro-Pakistan slogans was falsely shared as part of the farmer protests, prompting several fact-checks. In the meantime, organizations such as the Canadian Federal Opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) in Canada, and have come out in “solidarity" with the protesting farmers.

Facebook has since confirmed that the hashtag is back up and functioning now. Some reports on Twitter have said that the company had blocked the #sikh hashtag due to the ongoing farmer’s protest in the country. The #sikh hashtag now shows about 2.5 million posts on Instagram upon search. According to the NDTV Gadgets 360 report, the Instagram app was showing a “posts hidden" error when users were searching for the #sikh hashtag. However, the app started showing a few posts after the issue was raised by some users.

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