Mobile internet services were restored in Jammu and Kashmir on Saturday after a week-long ban, reports the Press Trust of India. Services were shut after militant Sabzar Bhat was killed in an encounter. Police said that the ban was necessitated to curb the spread of rumours on services such as WhatsApp and other messaging platforms, as indicated by this NDTV report.
Stone pelters were reportedly sending voice notes on WhatsApp to spread the message after the encounter. Mobile Internet was cut in Jammu and Kashmir for more than six months after security forces killed Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani.
Kashmir has had the highest number of Internet shutdowns – as many as 31 shutdowns in 2016, and three so far in 2017.
Note that 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.”
That ban is also being challenged in the Jammu and Kashmir High Court.
Supreme Court order
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.
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.