(with inputs from Aroon Deep)
2018 hasn’t ended yet, and India has officially crossed a hundred internet shutdowns in the year, with 106 shutdowns, according to the Software Freedom Law Centre’s internet shutdowns tracker. The hundredth reported shutdown was in Uttarakhand, where a 12 year old’s gangrape and murder led to local unrest, and authorities decided to shut internet access down in the town of Uttarkashi.
Some calculations based on data, on Internet Shutdowns from SFLC.in:
- So far, the number of shutdowns, at 106, is 1.34 times the 79 Internet shutdowns last year. In 2014, there were 6 Internet shutdowns in India.
- 106 shutdowns in 8 months in 2018 means an average of 13.3 shutdowns in a month. This is double of 6.6 shutdowns per month last year, and 2.6 shutdowns per month in 2017. At the present rate, India is on track to have 150 shutdowns by the end of 2018. Kashmir alone is on track to have over sixty.
- Top 5 states with shutdowns in 2018 account for 83.02% of total shutdowns:
- Jammu & Kashmir with 41 (38.58% of total)
- Rajasthan with 29 (27.36% of total)
- Uttar Pradesh with 8 (7.55% of total)
- Maharashtra with 6 (5.66% of total)
- Bihar with 4 (3.77% of total)
- Top 5 states since 2012 account for 78.28% of total:
- Jammu & Kashmir with 101, 41.39% of total
- Rajasthan with 55, 22.54% of total
- Uttar Pradesh with 12, 4.92% of total
- Haryana with 12, 4.92% of total
- Gujarat with 11, 4.51% of total
- Jammu & Kashmir is most effected, at 101 Internet Shutdowns since 2012. It accounts for
- 41 in 2018 so far, at 3.6 instances of shutdowns per month in 8 months
- 32 in 2017, at 2.4 instances of Internet shutdowns per month
- 10 in 2016, at 0.8 shutdowns per month
- 5 each from 2013 to 2015
- The first reported instances of Internet shutdowns were in 2013, with 3 in total that year. Jammu and Kashmir was the only state to have Internet shutdowns in 2013 and 2014.
- Rajasthan has had more shutdowns in 2018, at 29, than it has had in all previous years combined (25). Over the last 2 years, it has accounted for over a quarter of shutdowns. The first Internet Shutdown in Rajasthan was in 2015. It has accounted for almost 24% of the total shutdowns since them (230).
These numbers are all based on SFLC’s tracker, which is currently the most reliable aggregate source for shutdowns. The number is in all likelihood much higher, since shutdowns are ordered secretively by state governments, and not always reported by the news media. In response to an RTI application, Rajasthan’s government revealed that the state had several shutdowns in the last couple years that were not reported in the media.
In the last year, shutdowns have been ordered under the Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Safety) Rules, 2017, issued in August 2017. Human rights experts, including the UN, have criticized India’s frequent suspension of internet. From making sure that written tests for hiring police officers don’t have people cheating to containing backlash from sectarian conflict, shutdowns are being wielded as a tool to paralyse digital communications throughout the country.