censorship

For the sixth time this year, Internet has been shut down in a part of India. The latest on the list is Azamgarh, an eastern district in Uttar Pradesh, after communal tension broke out in the area, reports Times of India (TOI). This is probably the tenth time that a state government has shut down internet services in less than a year.

In previous instances of such Internet blocks that were reported this year, mobile Internet was the only restricted medium. This is the first time in this year wherein broadband connectivity has also been shut down owing to riots. According to Azamgarh’s district magistrate Suhas L Y who spoke to TOI, social media sites “were being used actively to spread misleading reports”, so as a preventive measure, the district decided to put Internet services on hold.

Internet shutdowns in India

– May 17th 2016: Azamgarh (UP)/unknown length of time/Wireline and Mobile Internet (link)
-April 18th 2016: Gujarat/3 days/Mobile Internet (link)
-April 16th 2016: Jharkhand/unknown length of time/Mobile Internet (link)
-April 14th 2016: Kashmir/1 day/Mobile Internet (link)
-February 28th 2016: Gujarat/4 hours/Mobile Internet (link)
February 19th 2016: Haryana/more than 1 day/Mobile Internet and SMS (link)
-December 20, 2015: Rajasthan/unknown/Mobile Internet (link)
-September 25th 2015: Jammu & Kashmir/2 days/Wireline and Mobile Internet (link)
-September 4th 2015: Manipur/2 days/Wireline and Mobile Internet (link)
-September 2nd 2015: Gujarat/ 1 week/Mobile Internet  (link)

Note: in case we’ve missed something, please feel free to let us know.

Previous internet shutdowns

-Last month, mobile Internet services were shutdown in multiple districts of Gujarat due to demonstrations by the Patel/Patidar community. Around the same time, mobile internet was also shut down in the industrial town of Bokaro in Jharkhand following communal clashes during Ramnavami celebrations on Friday.

-In the same month, mobile internet was shut down in parts of Kashmir including Srinagar, Kupwara, Baramulla, Bandipora and Ganderbal due to protests over the death of 4 people in clashes with the security forces.

– In February, Gujarat government shut down mobile Internet services for four hours to prevent cheating on phones during Revenue Accountants Recruitment Exam.

– In the same month, state authorities in Haryana shut down mobile internet in certain districts after the Jat community’s protest asking for reservations turned violent.

– In December 2015, the Rajasthan police shut down the usage of mobile internet for an indefinite period following communal clashes in the districts of Nagaur, Dungarpur, Udaipur, Bhilwara and other parts of the state. The police again invoked Section 144 of the CrPC.

–In Manipur, there was a shut down on mobile Internet services in September 2015 following three bills which were passed which would infringe on the rights of tribals in the state.

– In September 2015, Jammu and Kashmir had shutdown Internet services following apprehensions of violence due to the beef ban in the state. The government had issued a notification asking all internet service providers to close 3G, 2G, GPRS, lease line and broadband services.

MediaNama’s Take

As we had pointed out earlier, blanket bans on both mobile internet and broadband should be owing to the rarest exception and shouldn’t become turn out to be a norm in the country. However, in February, the Supreme Court (SC) had upheld the districts and states’ right to ban mobile Internet services to maintain law and order.

After 5 instances on Internet blockades since January, it feels like state governments have been resorting to internet restrictions as a routine pattern to keep a check on violence. In some instances reasons like “to stop people from cheating in exams” seems more like the state’s unwillingness to curb “cheating” and less like a law and order situation as upheld by the SC

Perhaps it is time for all Internet companies and telecom operators to raise the issue with the TRAI and seek specific legislation against blanket Internet bans.

Image Credit: Flickr user Carolyn Tiry under CC BY-SA 2.0