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DATA STORY: Precaution or crackdown? Internet shutdowns across India up 11-fold since 2013

Data shows that the intensity of the Internet blockades has increased to 55 this year from just 5 in 2013.

September 20, 2017 / 01:26 PM IST

The number of times Internet services have been shut down in India by the government has increased manifold since 2014, according to a report on Internet shutdowns. The data shows that the intensity of the shutdowns increased to 55 so far in 2017 from 5 in 2013.

The number of Internet blockades rose steadily at 6 in 2014, 14 in 2015 and 31 in 2016. In 2017, shutdowns were observed over 11 states, in stark contrast to just one in 2012.

Kinds of services restricted

This data on Internet shutdowns, compiled by Software Freedom Law Centre, suggests that the central government deployed the measure, perhaps, to avoid law and order problems during instances such as Patidar agitation in Gujarat, farmer’s protest in Madhya Pradesh or controversies surrounding the reservations in Nagaland’s civic body election.

Also, the country saw 89 shutdowns since 2014, with 74 being led by the BJP or its allies at the central, state and district levels, the SFLC data shows.

nature of shutdown

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The state which was denied its Internet access the largest number of times this year was Jammu and Kashmir. The state has seen Internet shut off to 25 times in 2017. Reasons cited was to prevent “rumor mongering” following the death of a prominent militant commander, and to keep the law and order in the state in the areas where clashes between the state police and the militants took place. Overall, since 2012, J&K saw 53 shutdowns — the most by an Indian state.

Haryana and Gujarat are next in the list of states with highest internet shutdowns. Mobile internet services were suspended in Sirsa, Haryana from September 8 to September 10 to prevent rumours and disturbance of public order during the sanitisation process being carried out at the Dera Sacha Sauda headquarters. The group's chief was convicted of rape on August 28. In the run up to and after the conviction too, the state government had barred Internet access in anticipation of violence from Dera followers.

In the period spanning 2014 to 2017, Gujarat saw 10 Internet shutdowns across various parts of the state. The state's Morbi and Surendranagar districts witnessed Internet access cut off between July 14 and July 18 to clamp down rumours and potential social media clashes between members of Bharwad and Rajput communities. Earlier on April 17 2016, the government blocked internet in various parts of the state when the Patel reservation protests were being held on a high pitch.

To sum it up, here's a timeline of the Internet blockades across various parts of the country.

There has also been an increase in the duration by which the internet services in these areas were disconnected. For example, Internet access was cut off just 6 times for periods of under 24 hours, 2-3 days and 3 days or more in 2014. The number surged more than five times to 31 in 2016 and more than two times at 14 in 2017 so far.

Durtations of shutdown

 
first published: Sep 19, 2017 03:37 pm

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