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Blanket bans on mobile Internet continue in India

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Mobile Internet services were shut down in Jaisalmer and Barmer district of Rajasthan following the death of a person in police firing in Jaisalmer, according to a Hindustan Times report. The ban will last for 48 hours. Wired broadband services, however, will continue, reported the Economic Times.

The reports added that the decision to suspend Internet services was taken to stop rumours from spreading on social media. A separate Hindustan Times report said that the authorities have also enforced section 144, which allows local law administration to ban unlawful assembly and has become a tool to justify short bans on Internet services.

There have been at least 13th such bans in the country since September 2015 — and it is not the first time that such bans were implemented in Rajasthan in recent times. In December 2015, mobile Internet services were suspended for an indefinite period in many districts in Rajasthan due to sectarian clashes.

Banning Internet services in the wake of any social unrest is quickly turning out to become the norm in the country with more and more states imposing blanket bans at the drop of a hat. The Supreme Court of India upheld the districts and states’ right to ban mobile Internet services for maintaining law and order in February. The  bench said: “it becomes very necessary sometimes for law and order.”

Shutting down Internet services, however, is self-defeating. The same communication network and social media applications can be used to quell rumours. In fact, the Mumbai police did just that in January last year.

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Previous internet shutdowns in India

– June 17th, 2016: Jammu(Jammu and Kashmir)/unknown length of time/ Mobile Internet and bulk SMS (link)
June 4th 2016: Sonipat (Haryana)/unknown length of time/Mobile Internet and bulk SMS (link)
– May 17th 2016: Azamgarh (Uttar Pradesh)/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)

Our coverage on Internet blocks

Related:

On Internet bans in India and the “Internet kill switch”
Gujarat internet ban: Thoughts on censorship and free speech

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