Internet shutdown has recently emerged as a popular means for the Government to resort to any uprising and protests from the citizens. Many countries including India, Iran, and Sudan repeatedly cut off citizen’s access to the internet nationwide on several occasions in a view to stopping the public unrest against the Government leaders and their policies. India had lost at least ₹9207.08 crore ($1.3 billion) due to the internet shutdown in 2019.
Major Events Related to Internet Ban
Indian Government under the leadership of the Prime Minister, Modi had brought several policies in which some of the policies were severely criticized from all corners of citizens including academicians, religious leaders, and opposition parties because of its controversial nature. Some of the policies in 2019 sparked a nationwide protest and many people died in public unrest. As claimed by some national media, India under Modi Government has turned into a fascist regime that lacked tolerance towards the citizens’ voice of dissent and peaceful protest.
Several critics attacked the government alleging that Modi had destroyed the principles and values of democracy and converted India into a Hindu-chauvinist country that attempted to wipe out minorities in the country. To resort protests against his policies, Modi Government constantly used internet shutdown as a tactic and the country lost its several revenues as a consequence of the halt of economic activities.
The worst internet shutdown happened in the former state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) as the Modi Government anticipated a widespread protest from Kashmiri following its decision of revoking Article 370 from the state. On August 5, 2019, J&K receded to two union territories after the Modi-Shah led policy took away the special rights status of the former state and imposed an internet ban to stop any protest.
Since then, Kashmiri people have been without access to the internet and the protest has been crushed forcefully. Recently, the Supreme Court of India (SC), the highest court of the country, ruled last week that the “limitless” internet shutdown enforced by the government for the last five months was illegal and asked it to be reviewed.
Moreover, India’s other major internet disruptions happened after the SC’s verdict on November 9, 2019, over the Ayodhya dispute on the Babri Masjid case. In the verdict, the SC ruled in the favor of Hindu and directed the disputed land to be handed over to a trust to build the Ram Janmabhoomi temple. As the Government foresaw a mass protest against the decision, the internet was shut down in the states of the Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan.
Following the month, the Modi-Shah introduced another controversial policy called Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), 2019 and National Register of Citizens (NRC), 2019 that had led to the eruption of massive protest across the country. The December’s policies were widely criticized as it violated the fundamental principles of the Indian Constitution which sought the extension of citizenship based on religious ground. The government enforced shutdowns across Uttar Pradesh and some North-Eastern states especially in Assam in order to quell the protests.
Consequences of Internet Shutdown in India
India is considered to be one of the world’s worst democratic countries as it constantly involved in the infringement of citizen’s fundamental rights and curbing access to the internet. According to the Cost of Internet Shutdowns 2019 report released by Top10VPN, a UK-based digital privacy and security research group, “India imposed more internet restrictions than any other large democracy.” India suffered a huge loss of revenue because of the constant internet restriction.
The report continued, “The South Asian nation recorded the third-highest losses after Iraq and Sudan, which lost ₹16360.27 crore and ₹13173.21 crore respectively to disruptions. Worldwide internet restrictions caused losses worth ₹57013.08 crore”.
Simon Migliano, head of research at UK-based Top10VPN, stated, “These are conservative estimates.” Simon added, “Internet shutdowns are increasing and it shows a damaging trend.” According to Reuters, “The cost of internet blackouts were calculated using indicators from groups including the World Bank, International Telecommunication Union, and the Delhi-based Software Freedom Law Center. It includes social media shutdowns in its calculations.”
In 2019, India had banned the citizens’ access to the internet for more than 4,000 hours. The reported by Reuters, “Shutdowns in India were often narrowly targeted, down to the level of blocking city districts for a few hours to allow security forces to restore order.” As the report added that Many of the smaller incidents were not included in the report.
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