The on-again, off-again status of Internet services in the state of Jammu and Kashmir continues: PTI reports that mobile Internet services were suspended at 10 pm and BSNL broadband connections at 10:30 pm on July 10 (Monday) in the Kashmir Valley, as a precautionary measure after a ‘Kashmirawareness’ campaign started by alleged separatists gained prominence on social media.
Just a day earlier, on Sunday, Internet services had been restored in the state after authorities had blocked it through Friday and Saturday, also as a precautionary measure just before former Hizbul commander Burhan Wani’s first death anniversary (July 8). Note that only the 2G services had been restored on Sunday, and the high speed network remains suspended.
Last month, the government had directed telecom companies to throttle mobile Internet speeds in Kashmir, starting with bringing 3G and 4G services down to 2G speeds. Earlier in April, the state government had tried another tactic to check the spread of rumours by banning 22 social media services, including Facebook, Whatsapp, Twitter, YouTube (upload), Vine, Google+, QQ, WeChat, Qzone, Tumblr, Skype, Viber, Line, Snapchat, Pinterest, Telegram, Reddit, Snapfish, Xanga, Buzznet, Flickr and Baidu. But telecom companies struggled to comply with the order as BSNL officials said that they were unable to block the 22 services without freezing the Internet across the Himalayan region, according to this Livemint report.
Typically, mobile Internet bans are enforced under Section 144 of the CrPC, which can be invoked by a district magistrate or the collector. To curb incidents of riots or mobs, magistrates or district collectors cut mobile Internet to stop the spread of rumours on social media. The number of Internet blocks have increased dramatically following the Supreme Court’s ruling which upheld the districts and states’ right to ban mobile Internet services for maintaining law and order in February 2016.
Kashmir mobile Internet shutdowns
Due to unrest in the Kashmir Valley, there have been multiple Internet shutdowns in the region. In the months of April, May and June, there had been four mobile Internet shutdowns in different parts of the state:
- The latest was on June 16, when mobile Internet services were snapped following the death of a youth.
- Prior to that, on May 29, Internet services were shutdown for a week after militant Sabzar Bhat was killed in an encounter.
- Internet services were cut twice in April; first on April 18, following student protests across universities and colleges in Pulwama, and the second on April 8, when both broadband and mobile Internet services were suspended on the eve of the by-polls to the Srinagar Parliamentary seat.
On 6th December 2016, MediaNama had held a discussion in Delhi, on issues related to Internet Shutdowns, with with support from Facebook and STAR India . The following are notes based on these discussions. Read Part 1 here, Part 2 here and Part 3 here.