Mobile internet services will remain suspended in Haryana, Punjab and Chandigarh from Thursday evening until the next 72 hours, according to Haryana Home Secretary Ram Niwas’s statement. IndianExpress reports that the state decided to cut off mobile Internet to curb potential spread of violence ahead of spiritual leader Gurmeet Ram Rahim’s rape case verdict on Friday.
Around 5,000 police personnel have been deployed in the city while Section 144, have been imposed in parts of Punjab, the report said. Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) deals with unlawful assembly, with provisions to ban Internet services as well as public assemblies of over five people. Note that in a similar move early last year, the Haryana government had blocked mobile internet and SMSes in certain districts after the Jat community’s protest asking for reservations turned violent.
Bans in other states
Internet bans have been used many times in the past by state authorities to deal with violent situations arising from riots, protests, etc. But slowly the tactics have changed and seems like the authorities are using Intenet blockades to stop citizens from dissenting on social media. The number of Internet blocks has distinctively gone up after the Supreme Court’s ruling in February 2016 which upheld districts and states’ right to ban mobile Internet services for maintaining law and order.
In the month of May and June, there was three Internet shutdown reported:
- Shutdown in Darjeeling: Due to the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) protests in Darjeeling, both broadband and mobile Internet services were shutdown in June this year to prevent mass gatherings in the hills, coordinated by use of social media, etc. As of August 18th, the shutdown completed 2 months, according to an SFLC report. Mobile and broadband Internet are yet to be restored in Darjeeling, MediaNama learnt from sources who did not want to be named.
- Multiple Internet shutdowns in the valley this year: At around the same time as Darjeeling shutdown, mobile Internet was blocked again in Jammu and Kashmir following the death of a youth named Naseer Ahmed; he succumbed to injuries after receiving firing in Srinagar. Authorities said that block was required to shutdown “inflammable content” being spread on social media. They Valley however has seen numerous Internet shut downs: In the months of April, May and June, there had been at least four mobile Internet shutdowns in different parts of the country. (More on this here and here).
- Saharanpur Internet shutdown: Mobile Internet was snapped in Uttar Pradesh’s Saharanpur in May this year following clashes between Dalit and Rajput groups. This was also initiated under Section 144 of the CrPC code. Senior superintendent of police SC Dubey and district magistrate NP Singh were suspended by the state as they did not handle the situation effectively, NDTV reported.
Govt is blocking social sites instead of blanket Internet bans
In the month of April, Internet services were shutdown in Jammu and Kashmir following student protests across universities and colleges. But soon after this, the Indian government started blocking only some social media sites in the Kashmir valley for a month. This includes services like Facebook, Whatsapp, Twitter, YouTube (upload), Vine, Google+, QQ, WeChat, Qzone, Tumblr, Skype, Viber, Line, Snapchat, Pinterest, Telegram, Reddit, Snapfish, Xanga, Buzznet, Flickr and Baidu.