Internet shutdowns become chronic

There was not a single month in 2017 when an internet shutdown was not in force in some part of the country.
Research by SIMRAN AGARWAL, RAHUL BHATNAGAR, SHILPI GOYAL

 

India is becoming increasingly notorious for internet shutdowns.  As the table and calendar below will show, there was not a single month in 2017 when an internet shutdown was not in force  in some part of the country.   The year 2016 recorded 31 shutdowns.  For 2017 the figure was 77.

 

State-wise summary

State

Number of cases

Jammu & Kashmir

40

Rajasthan

11

Haryana

8

Bihar

3

Uttar Pradesh

2

Tripura

2

West Bengal

2

Nagaland

2

Odisha

2

Andhra and Telangana

1

Gujarat

1

Madhya Pradesh

1

Maharashtra

1

Punjab & Chandigarh

1

Total

77

 

Equally, there were only three months in that year that the state of Jammu and Kashmir did not experience an internet shutdown somewhere in the state.  It has become a reflex action there for law and order enforcement, and journalists in particular were hit hard  by this basic withdrawal of communication facilities. 

As beleaguered reporters and cameramen pointed out, the  shutdowns did not affect the police or army or political parties as they had dedicated leased lines.

In May, two UN Special Rapporteurs voiced criticism of the Indian government’s decision to shut down specific social media apps in Kashmir, and of internet shutdowns in general, and asked for connectivity to be restored. Their statement had said that: “The scope of these restrictions has a  significantly disproportionate impact on the fundamental rights of everyone in Kashmir, undermining the Government’s stated aim of preventing dissemination of information that could lead to violence”.

 

Month

Place and Date

January

Nagaland- Wokha and Phek districts, 19th January- 20th February

Nagaland, January 30th- 20th February

Haryana- Jhajjar 29th

Haryana- Rohtak, Bhiwani, Hisar, Sonipat, and Panipat, January 30th

February

Haryana- Jhajjar, Panipat, Sonipat, Hisar, Rohtak, Jind, and Bhiwani, February 17th- February 19th

Haryana-Rohtak, Bhiwani and Sonipat districts, 5PM February 25th - February 26th

March

Haryana- Rohtak, Bhiwani, Sonipat and Jhajjar districts, March 18th – March 19th

Rajasthan- Sikar district- March 31st – April 6th

April

Jammu & Kashmir- Srinagar, Budgam and Gandarbal districts, Kashmir Valley, April 8th - April 13th

Jammu & Kashmir- Budgam, April 13th

Jammu & Kashmir- Pulwama, April 17th- April 19th

Odisha-  April 9th – April 11th

Odisha- Kendrapara, April 19th – April 21st

Rajasthan- Udaipur and Fatehnagar- April 18th – April 19th

May

Jammu & Kashmir, May 27th – June 2nd

Uttar Pradesh, Saharanpur, May 24th -June 4th

June

Madhya Pradesh- Mandsaur, Ratlam and Neemuch districts, June 6th – June 11th

Jammu &Kashmir, June 7th

Jammu & Kashmir- Kashmir Valley, June 12th -June 19th

Jammu & Kashmir- Pulwama, June 22nd

West Bengal- Darjeeling, June 18th -till date

Uttar Pradesh - Saharanpur, June 8th -June 12th

Rajasthan - Nagaur district , June 30th –July 5th

Maharashtra- Nashik, June 5th for a few hours

July

Rajasthan- Nagaur, Churu, Sikar and Bikaner districts, July 11th – July 14th

Jammu & Kashmir- Anantnag, July 1st

Jammu & Kashmir- South Kashmir, July 2nd

Jammu & Kashmir- Kashmir Valley, July 6th - July 9th

Jammu & Kashmir- Across Kashmir Valley, July 10th- July 12th

Jammu & Kashmir- Morbi and Surendranagar districts, July 13th -July 19th

Jammu & Kashmir- Pulwama , July 16th

Jammu & Kashmir- Anantnag dist, July 18th

Jammu & Kashmir- Bijbehara town and adjacent areas, July 20th

Jammu & Kashmir- Budgam district, July 21st -July 25th

Jammu & Kashmir- Anantnag district, July 26th

Jammu & Kashmir- Pulwama, July 30th

West Bengal- Baduria and Bashirhat areas of North 24 Parganas district, July 5th -July 10th

Tripura, 20th July (14 hours)

Gujarat- Morbi and Surendranagar districts, July 18th to July 14th

August

Jammu & Kashmir- Pulwama district, August 1st –August 2nd

Jammu & Kashmir- Anantnag, Kulgam, Pulwama and Shopian districts, August 3rd

Jammu & Kashmir- Baramullah, August 5th

Jammu & Kashmir- Pulwama, August 9th

Jammu & Kashmir- Shopian and Kulgam district, August 13th

Jammu & Kashmir- Kashmir Valley, August 15th

Jammu & Kashmir- Pulwama district, August 16th

Jammu & Kashmir- South Kashmir, August 19th

Jammu & Kashmir- Pulwama district, August 26th

Punjab & Haryana- Areas around Panchkula, August 24th – August 29th

Rajasthan- Sriganganagar and Hanumangarh, August 25th- August 27th

September

Bihar- Madhepura, Supaul, Saharsa, Purnea, Araria, Kishanganj and Katihar,  September 5th

Bihar- Nawada district, September 28th – November 5th

Jammu & Kashmir- Shopian and Kulgam districts, September 2nd

Jammu & Kashmir- Sopore, September 4th

Jammu & Kashmir-Sopore town of Baramula district-September 9th

Jammu & Kashmir- Kulgam and Anantnag districts, September 11th

Jammu & Kashmir- Kupwara district, September 15th

Jammu & Kashmir- Jammu, September 20th

Rajasthan- Jaipur, September 9th

Rajasthan- Sikar district, September 11th

Rajasthan- Jaipur’s Ramganj area, September 15th - September 20th

Tripura, Agartala, September 21st – September 25th

Haryana- Sirsa district, September 8th- September 10th

October

Jammu & Kashmir- Across Kashmir, October 13th

Jammu & Kashmir- North Kashmir’s Bandipora district, October 25th

Bihar- Arwal, Jamui, Bhojpur, Katihar, Sitamarhi and West Champaran, October 1st- October 5th

November

Jammu & Kashmir- Pulwama district, November 2nd

Haryana- Jind, Hansi, Bhiwani, Hisar, Fatehabad, Karnal, Panipat, Kaithal, Rohtak, Sonipat, Jhajjar, Bhiwani and Charkhi Dadri, November 24th – November 27th

December

Rajasthan- Bhilwara, Chittorgarh and Nimbahera, December 3rd

Rajasthan- Udaipur and Rajsamand district, December 13th – December 14th

Rajasthan- Bundi district, 6am on December 31st to 6am on January 2nd , 2018

Jammu & Kashmir- Sopore, Baramulla, Handwara and Kupwara, December 11th

Jammu & Kashmir- Kulgam and Anantnag district, December 15th

Jammu & Kashmir- Shopian district, December 18th - December 26th

Jammu & Kashmir- Pulwama district, December 26th

Jammu & Kashmir- Pulwama district, December 31st

Andhra Pradesh and Telangana- Adilabad district of Telangana, December 16th

 

Most internet blocks in India are taking place under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code 1973, which gives the state government the power to stop unlawful assemblies of people to prevent public disorder, rioting and so on. They can be brought into force by a notification signed by the district magistrate or a commissioner of police in a metropolitan area. However, legal experts have been arguing against the constitutional validity of imposing internet shutdowns, especially under Section 144.  

One argument is that Section 144 does not even contain the appropriate legal power to order a suspension of Internet services, since the power to regulate telegraphs (or the internet in this case) is vested with the Union and not with the state. In that context, any internet shutdown should really take place under Section 5(2) of the Telegraph Act and Section 69A of the Information Technology Act.

Medianama reported that in August  2017 that the Ministry of Communications issued (and notified) rules for shutting of telecom services – and by extension, the shutting down of Internet services in India. The notification for the rules was issued under the Telegraph Act. These shutdowns are notified using Section 144 of the CrPC  which can be invoked by a district magistrate or the collector.

The new rules issued by the central government sought to  take the  power to impose shutdowns away from the district collector, and vest  it with a higher authority such as the state home secretary or the union home secretary.  The frequency of shutdowns however continued unabated after August, as the calendar (above) shows.

 

Reasons for shutdowns

Bihar

  • Communal Tension

Gujarat

  • Caste Conflict

Haryana

  • Jat Protests turned violent

 Jammu & Kashmir

  • “To prevent any rumours” during bypoll
  •  To “prevent any rumours” after a sudden spurt in the protests and violence after students were injured in security force and police action
  • After militant Sabzar Bhat was killed in an encounter
  • To prevent rumours from spreading, after three Lashkar-e-Toiba militants were killed in an encounter
  • Heightened tensions after a youth’s death in firing by security forces
  • “To prevent the spreading of rumours on the social networking websites” amid a gunfight between militants and government forces
  • To “prevent the spread of rumours” in the wake of a general strike called by pro-freedom groups in protest against the death of two civilians
  • The first death anniversary of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani
  • To counter the “Kashmir Awareness Campaign” called by the Joint Resistance Leadership
  • After seven Amarnath yatra pilgrims were killed in a terror attack
  • Strike called by separatists
  • The killing of three youths in military operation
  • Killing of a meat seller in a stray army shootout.
  • Three militants escaped from a cordon and search operation of the army
  • Killing of a young tailor Tanveer Ahmad Wani in an army firing
  • Killing of two militants in a shootout
  • Wake of protests following the killing of two Lashkar-e-Taiba militants
  • Encounter in a village where three militants believed to be trapped.
  • As “precautionary measures”, after killing of three LeT militants
  • After six terrorists are gunned down in two separate incidents
  • To prevent trouble after a man allegedly disappeared while in Army custody.
  • After an alleged sacrilegious act
  • To prevent rumor-mongering on braid-cutting incidents.
  • Following a gunfight in Hajin
  • To mourn the killing of a militant in a gunfight with forces
  • Before the funeral prayers for slain Lashkar-e-Toiba militant
  • In the wake of a gunfight between militants and government forces

 

Madhya Pradesh

  • Farmers’ agitation turned violent

 

Nagaland

  • To “thwart rumour mongers” and prevent the spread of violence in the state

 

Punjab

  • Ahead of the verdict in the case of Ram Rahim Singh

 

Rajasthan

  • In the aftermath of the encounter of fugitive Anand Pal Singh
  • Ahead of the Shraddhanjali Sabha organised by the Rajpur community in honour of gangster Anand Pal Singh
  • Protest by Rajput community demanding CBI probe into the encounter of gangster Anand Pal Singh.
  • Farmers took to the streets in protest for remunerative crop prices, complete loan waiver and other demands
  • Clashes between police and people of a community
  • Processions in support of Shambhulal Regar, who is in custody for hacking a Muslim migrant labourer to death, burning the body and filming the barbaric act

 

Tripura

  • After the death of the journalist Shantanu Bhowmick.

 

Uttar Pradesh

  • To prevent the misuse of social media, in fomenting tension following the arrest of Bhim Army founder Chandrashekhar
  • To "maintain peace and ensure law and order” following several cases of caste-related violence

 

West Bengal

  • Violent clashes between pro-Gorkhaland supporters and police

Communal tensions triggered by an “objectionable” Facebook post

 

 

Data sourced  from the Hoot’s Free Speech Hub and the Software Freedom Law Centre’s Internet Shutdown Tracker.

 

 

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