Though we’re reaching a point where more people will have access to better quality Internet, our government here in India isn’t above taking away that service in times of emergency, where arguably online services are most required to stay in touch with loved ones.
According to internetshutdowns.in, a website that tracks when the Internet is blocked off in India, authorities shut down the world wide web for us 69 times in 2017. That’s more than twice the number of such instances the previous year. In addition, that’s more than half the total number of times , 129, that the Internet has been cut off in the country since 2012.
The website tracks data gathered by Delhi-based legal firm Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC). For instance, Jammu and Kashmir experience the most shutdowns in 2017, with a count of 29. Though this was mainly during conflicts between soldiers and armed militants, there was also an incident after Amarnath pilgrims were killed where the net was taken offline for 36 hours. The state has seen a total of 69 shutdowns in the past five years.
Rajasthan came second with 17 instances, most arising from communal tensions. Meanwhile, Punjab and Haryana experienced shutdowns for the first time preceding the verdict in the Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh case. Even Maharashtra had an Internet shutdown in Aurangabad today, after caste violence sparked a Dalit-backed bandh.
Pro bono law centres like SFLC still insist cutting off the Internet, even in emergency situations, is a worrisome trend as it violates a basic human right. They claim it “threatens the democratic working of nations, and also point to the gradual normalisation of the mindset that permits such blanket restriction on Internet access.”