Over the last month, police and government authorities in at least 9 different states have deployed internet shutdowns as a tool to contain protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which was passed in the Parliament on December 11. Internet services were first suspended in Tripura, Assam, and Meghalaya followed by West Bengal, parts of Uttar Pradesh as protests spread in intensity and area. Internet was shutdown in the national capital for the first time. In many instances, including in Delhi, the internet suspension was ordered illegally by a police official, violating the rules which allow internet shutdowns — Temporary Suspension of Internet Services Rules, 2011 — that allow only officials of the Home Ministry to issue such orders.
India leads the world in internet shutdowns, with 106 internet shutdowns in 2019. Jammu and Kashmir has had no internet services for 150 days — since the abrogation of Article 370 on August 4. However, SMS on all postpaid phones and broadband services in 80 government hospitals were restored in the Jammu & Kashmir on January 1 midnight.
2020 has already seen its first internet shutdown: internet services were suspended in Bhima Koregaon — situated near Pune, Maharashtra — on January 1, 2020, as a precautionary measure as people gathered to commemorate the 202nd anniversary of the Bhima Koregaon battle.
Widespread internet shutdown in over 20 districts
Internet services were again suspended on December 26 in several of UP’s 75 districts amidst protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). Protests against the Act had turned violent in the state, with widespread damage to public property and 19 people dead in the protests. Internet connectivity was suspended in western Uttar Pradesh’s Bijnor, Bulandshahr, Muzaffarnagar, Meerut, Agra, Firozabad, Sambhal, Aligarh, Ghaziabad, Rampur, Sitapur and Kanpur districts. Internet services were also suspended in Lucknow, Shamli, Hapur, Firozabad, Bareilly, Saharanpur, Amroha, Bahraich, Varanasi, Azamgarh, and Moradabad districts. The suspensions were ordered for different durations across districts, here is what we know:
- Bulandshahr: Internet services were snapped at 5 pm on December 26, and were ordered to be suspended until 5 am on December 28.
- Saharanpur: Internet services were scheduled to remain in place till Friday prayers on December 27.
- Agra: Internet services were ordered to remain suspended till 6 pm on December 27 (Friday).
- Bijnor: Internet services were snapped for 48 hours on December 26.
- Firozabad: Internet services were snapped on December 26 morning till evening of December 27 (Friday).
Ghaziabad: On December 26, Ghaziabad District Magistrate Ajay Shankar Pandey ordered suspension of internet services for 24 hours starting at 10 pm, citing the and law and order situation in the district. “The anti-social elements won’t be able to take advantage of the Internet to spread hatred and disturb communal harmony,” the DM said, per the Indian Express. Internet services were also snapped in the district on December 20 for 24 hours following protests against CAA.
Internet shutdown in 18 districts: Internet services were snapped in 18 districts of UP on December 20 after anti-CAA protests turned violent and led to destruction of public property. Internet services were snapped for 24 hours starting December 20 midnight. The districts which faced an internet shutdown are Hapur, Moradabad, Saharanpur, Muzzafarnagar, Shamli, Lucknow, Prayagraj, Unnao, Agra, Sultanpur, Mau, Bagpat, Meerut, Bulandshahr, Azamgarh, Ghaziabad, Kanpur, and Pilibhit.
- On December 19, internet services were suspended in Uttar Pradesh’s Sambhal district as a “precautionary measure to prevent rumour-mongering”.
- On December 18, internet services were suspended in Azamgarh district for 48 hours after protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act.
- On December 20, mobile internet services were snapped in Lucknow, Bareilly, Prayagraj, Ghaziabad and Mangalore.
Azamgarh district: Internet services were suspended for 48 hours on December 18, as protests against the Citizenship Act turned violent.
Meerut: Internet shutdown for 24 hours starting 12 pm on December 15, amid anti-CAA protests.
Aligarh: Internet services were first snapped in Aligarh city on December 13 ahead of protests by Aligarh Muslim University Students Union’s protests against CAA. Internet services were shut down again in the city on December 15, as police stormed the Aligarh Muslim University campus, while students were holding protests. This shutdown lasted for 24 hours starting 10 pm on December 15.
Internet services were suspended in Jaipur from 6 am to 8 pm on December 22, in the wake of protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act. Both mobile internet and bulk SMS & MMS were suspended.
Mobile internet services remained suspended in Jabalpur, Bhopal, and Indore on December 21 amidst protests against CAA. It’s unclear when the suspension was ordered, and for how long.
The country’s capital saw internet shutdown — albeit hyperlocalised — for the first time. Internet services, voice, and SMS services were suspended in parts of Delhi — in areas where protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act and the related police violence were either planned or ongoing. The services were suspended on December 19 from 9 am to 1 pm in Walled city areas of North and Central districts, Mandi House, Seelampur, Jaffarbad, Mustafabad, Jamia Nagar, Shaheen Bagh and Bawana. It’s worth noting that the shutdown was ordered by a senior police official — DCP Special Cell PS Kushwah. The Delhi HC later dismissed a petition — filed by Software Freedom Law Centre India — challenging the Delhi Police’s internet shutdown order, stating that the shutdown period was already over.
In the state’s first ever internet shutdown, Karnataka’s Home department ordered the suspension of mobile internet services in Mangalore city and Dakshina Kannada district for 48 hours on December 19. The suspension order, made the Temporary Suspension of Internet Service Rules 2011, cites that social media platforms are likely to be used for spreading of rumors.
Internet services were suspended in 6 districts of West Bengal on December 16, amidst violent protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act. The affected districts were Malda, Uttar Dinajpur, Murshidabad, Howrah, North 24 Parganas, and in the Baruipur and Canning sub-divisions of South 24 Parganas district. The Calcutta High Court said on December 20 that restrictions on internet services cannot be unreasonably imposed, and said that internet services should be resumed.
Mobile internet services were suspended in the Kamrup, Kamrup Metro, and 8 Upper Assam districts on December 11, amidst widespread protests against the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Bill. The affected districts were Lakhimpur, Dhemaji, Tinsukia, Dibrugarh, Charaideo, Sivasagar, Jorhat, Golaghat, Kamrup, and Kamrup Metro. The internet shutdown was initially ordered only for 48 hours, after which it was extended by another 48 hours till December 14. However, mobile internet services were only restored after 10 days of shutdown on December 20, on the order of the Gauhati High Court.
Internet services were suspended in the entire state for 48 hours on December 12, amidst protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act. The order was made by the state home department.
Internet services were snapped for 48 hours on December 10 as protests against the then Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2019, turned violent. This shutdown was extended by another 24 hours on December 12.