Mobile Internet was cut off in Mandsaur, Ratlam and Neemuch districts in Madhya Pradesh as farmer strikes turned violent, reports the Press Trust of India. The publication added that five people were killed. Mandsaur and Ratlam’s  district collector said that section 144 of the CrPC (Criminal Procedure Code) was imposed to check the spread of rumours.

Section 144 of the CrPC allows local law administration to ban unlawful assembly and justify short bans on Internet services. Section 144 of the CrPC can usually be invoked by a district magistrate or the collector. This allows local law administration to ban unlawful assembly and justify short bans on Internet services. Section 144 of the CrPC can usually be invoked by a district magistrate or the collector.

The reports did not mention how long the suspension will be in effect or whether bulk SMS services would be cut as well.

The number of Internet blocks has increased dramatically with the Supreme Court’s ruling which upheld the districts and states’ right to ban mobile Internet services for maintaining law and order in February last year. The Centre for Communication Governance At NLU Delhi counts more than 40 instances in two years where the internet was suspended for emergencies.

In the months of April, May and June, there have been four mobile Internet shutdowns in different parts of the country. The latest was on May 29 in Jammu and Kashmir after militant Sabzar Bhat was killed in an encounter. Internet was cut for a week in this instance. Internet services were cut twice in April. Internet services were cut on April 18 following student protests across universities and colleges. The incident was sparked as some students in Pulwama Degree College were beaten by government forces.  on April 8, both broadband and mobile Internet services were suspended on the eve of the by-polls to the Srinagar parliamentary seat

Criticism from the UN

In May, two UN Special Rapporteurs had been fairly critical of the Indian governments decision to shut down specific social media apps, and asked for connectivity to be restored. The statement had said that:

“The scope of these restrictions has a significantly disproportionate impact on the fundamental rights of everyone in Kashmir, undermining the Government’s stated aim of preventing dissemination of information that could lead to violence”

“The internet and telecommunications bans have the character of collective punishment, and fail to meet the standards required under international human rights law to limit freedom of expression”, and “Denying such access disrupts the free exchange of ideas and the ability of individuals to connect with one another and associate peacefully on matters of shared concern.”

Other internet shutdowns this year

Apart from Jammu and Kashmir, there have been other instances of Internet shutdowns in India.

May 25, in Saharanpur, Uttar Pradesh: services were snapped in following caste clashes between Dalit and Rajput groups.

– February 19, in Rohtak Haryana: Internet services were also cut off in Rohtak, Haryana following intense protests by the Jat community.

– January 30, in Nagaland: both SMS and internet/data services were suspended in Nagaland were only restored on February 23.