no internet

The Jammu & Kashmir state administration blocked GPRS-operated WhatsApp ‘as a precautionary measure’ to keep rumours in check last Friday (5 August). It restored the service on the same evening in Jammu. Other mobile internet services were operational, according to the report. The same report states that ‘mobile internet’ was closed in this duration. It is unclear if all of mobile internet or only WhatsApp on GPRS was blocked.

The administration apparently asked telcos to block this service on Thursday (4 August) night, who were reportedly not in favour of this decision, but agreed on the condition of ‘early restoration’ considering the security concerns.

Note that 6 days before this one day block, mobile internet services were restored in Kashmir after being blocked for 17 days. Services were cut in over 10 districts on July 9. This is the longest period where mobile Internet was banned since September 2015 when services were snapped for a week in Gujarat following the Patidar agitation.

About a month ago, all private telecom companies in Jammu and Kashmir were asked to block their internet and voice services for a day “as a precautionary measure” due to the unrest in the state. All prepaid services offered by BSNL were suspended. At the time, voice and SMS services were still active on Aircel in parts of Jammu.

Other bans in Internet in Jammu and Kashmir include:
– Mobile Internet services were cut off in Jammu and neighbouring districts following violent protests in the region over a temple desecration in June.
–  Internet services were suspended in five districts in Kashmir in April due to protests over the death of 4 people in clashes with the security forces.
– In September 2015, Jammu and Kashmir suspended Internet services for two days following apprehensions of violence in the state in light of the beef ban in the state.

The Software Freedom Law Centre has tracked 30 incidents on Internet being cut off in since 2013.

States have the right to ban mobile internet: Supreme Court

In February, 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.” Typically bans such as this are enforced under Section 144 of the CrPC (Criminal Procedure Code) which allows local law administration to ban unlawful assembly and justify short bans on Internet services.

List of Internet blocks since September 2015
– July 11, 2016: Jammu and Kashmir districts of Ananatnag, Shopian, Pulgam and Sopore/ 17 days (link).
– July 1, 2016: Barmer and Jaisalmer (Rajasthan)/48 hours/ (link)
– June 17, 2016: Jammu (Jammu and Kashmir)/unknown length of time/ Mobile Internet and bulk SMS (link)
– June 4, 2016: Sonipat (Haryana)/unknown length of time/Mobile Internet and bulk SMS (link)
– May 17, 2016: Azamgarh (Uttar Pradesh)/unknown length of time/Wireline and Mobile Internet (link)
– April 18, 2016: Gujarat/3 days (link)
– April 16, 2016: Jharkhand/unknown length of time (link)
– April 14, 2016: Kashmir/1 day (link)
– February 28, 2016: Gujarat/4 hours (link)
– February 19, 2016: Haryana/more than 1 day/Mobile Internet and SMS (link)
– December 20, 2015: Rajasthan/unknown (link)
– September 25, 2015: Jammu & Kashmir/2 days/Wireline and Mobile Internet (link)
– September 4, 2015: Manipur/2 days/Wireline and Mobile Internet (link)
– September 2, 2015: Gujarat/ 1 week  (link)

Our internet blocks coverage.

Image credit: ben dalton under CC BY SA 2.0