Internet services were snapped in parts of West Bengal’s North 24 Parganas district around 11 pm last night. The shutdown came after a bomb went off amid clashes between TMC and BJP workers in which three people died and around 10 were injured, telecom research analyst and Kolkata resident Imtiaz Mondal told MediaNama. The shutdown affected three of the district’s five divisions – Bongaon, Barrackpore and Bashirhat. He added that while the internet services of Vodafone and Airtel were not affected in the other two divisions, Jio’s services appeared to be down across the district. District magistrate Chaitali Chakrabarty ordered the shutdown around 7 pm yesterday, but there was no sign that it would be lifted over the weekend, Mondal said, adding that more shutdowns are expected in the coming weeks as the violence is ongoing.
Second shutdown in North 24 Parganas in a fortnight
This is the second internet shutdown in West Bengal’s North 24 Parganas district in a fortnight. The state has now suspended internet services seven (known) times since 2014. On June 9, internet services were suspended in Basirhat, after three political workers from the BJP and TMC were killed in clashes between the two parties and graphic images of the victims were circulated on social media.
In July 2017, riots sparked by an “objectionable” Facebook post prompted authorities to suspend Internet services in Basirhat to curb the spread of rumours on social media and other messaging platforms. The allegedly objectionable Facebook post was shared by a 17-year old boy on July 2. By the evening of the same day, he had been arrested by the local police. However, by then the mob had already vandalised shops and put up blockades on major road in the area. The next day the Baduria police station was attacked and set on fire along with several police vehicles. The riots continued for the next few days, and about 25 people including 20 policemen were reported to have been injured.
India’s rules on internet shutdowns
Internet shutdowns in India are governed by a set of rules published by the DoT in 2017, which replaced the even more arbitrary procedure of enforcement through orders issued by a District Magistrate. The current rules still enable the imposition of an internet shutdown through executive orders, but these may only be issued by a secretary to the central or state government and are subject to review by a central government committee.