The Internet has become a dire necessity in today’s business order. If you don’t have an internet presence whether it be for personal gratification on social media or for professional growth, it might be safely concluded that your aspirations might remain stagnant. In India, currently, there is a great debate on the internet shutdown in Kashmir.
The Paradise on Earth appears to be the epicentre of political dialogue in our country and that’s what it is. From Twitter to the Indian Media, largely everyone is involved in criticizing the government for the shutdown but are these vociferous commoners and media pioneers aware that in India beyond Kashmir issue, there was a total of 358 shutdowns reported. Even cry-baby Pakistan has imposed over 19 internet shutdowns even as they are complaining about the same subject for Kashmir.
Let’s look at the most recent internet shutdowns in India and where they happened.
|10-11-2019||Madhya Pradesh||This shutdown was imposed because the public wanted to carry out processions on the occasion of Eid-e-Milad-un-Nabi despite not getting permissions from the authorities. Permissions of all kinds for rallies and processions have been denied in the State by District authorities till 30 November.|
|09-11-2019||Rajasthan||Internet services were suspended in the wake of Ayodhya verdict.|
|09-11-2019||Maharashtra||“Local ISP is asked by police to shut down internet till 5 PM” in Malad. Internet services suspended on the day of Ayodhya verdict.|
|09-11-2019||Haryana||We received reports from a citizen informing about the suspension of internet services in Palwal on the day Ayodhya verdict was announced.|
|09-11-2019||Uttar Pradesh||Mobile internet services have been suspended as a preventive measure in Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh, ahead of Ayodhya Verdict.|
|11-10-2019||Bihar||Mobile internet services were suspended on 11 Oct 2019, in Jehanabad, Bihar to prevent rumour-mongering after communal clashes took place during Durga idol immersion procession. Shops were ransacked and set on fire by violent mobs. Later police held a peace dialogue with clashing communities.|
|25-08-2019||Rajasthan||Sawai Madhopur district after communal tension broke out in the city. Section 144 was also imposed.|
Internet Shutdown Cases/Reports in India
|Year||No. of Internet Shutdown Reports|
Total number of internet shutdown cases/reports in India – 358
While internet shutdown has largely been pre-emptive, the longest Internet Shutdown was observed in Kashmir located in Jammu and Kashmir in 2016 due to the agitation caused by the killing of Burhan Wani on 8th July 2016. Mobile Internet Services were suspended for 133 days. While mobile Internet services on postpaid numbers were restored on November 19, 2016. Mobile Internet services for prepaid users resumed in January 2017, this implies they faced almost a six-month Internet shutdown. The second-longest Internet services suspension was observed in Darjeeling. The order suspending the Internet services was promulgated on 18th June 2017 due to the ongoing agitation for a separate Gorkhaland. Two days later, on 20th June, the order was extended to the broadband services as well, effectively shutting down the entire Internet, with several such extension orders Internet services were suspended in Darjeeling for 100 days.
Know about the 19 Internet Shutdowns by Pak
According to a report by AccessNow, India is leading in the number of Internet Shutdowns in the world. As of now, the internet shutdown in Kashmir has entered the fifth month after the Government of India imposed severe Internet shutdowns as a form of preventive measures when they abrogated Article 370.
Pakistan has been vehemently criticizing this move of the Indian Government on grounds of human rights violation. The United Nations Human Rights Council had passed a resolution on 1st July 2016, condemning the network disruptions and state measures curbing the dissemination of information. It also recognized the need for the same standards of protection to the rights, especially the right to freedom of expression, in the online medium as that in the offline medium. Even though Pakistan has been speaking against this measure, frequent Internet shutdowns have become a feature of the Pakistani establishment too. The Pak government has denied Balochistan of internet connectivity for the last two years.
Section 54 of the Pakistan Telecommunications Act (PTA), 1996 grants authorities the power to suspend services, but only during a state of emergency. The misuse of this Act by the law enforcement agencies have increased. This was challenged in the court by several aggrieved people.
The collection of cases in this article will begin from June 2016 till September 2019. There have been around 19 shutdowns during this period. The reasons behind these shutdowns are mainly due to religious and festivals, public safety, and other security reasons.
Starting on 12 June 2016, mobile Internet service was shut down for more than a year in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). This was due to an exchange of fire between local and Afghan forces during the construction of a gate on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. No official reason was given for the disruption, and service had yet to be restored more than a year later.
On August 12, 2016, the Ministry of Interior forwarded a letter to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to suspend cellular services in Islamabad, on Independence Day. The mobile phone service remained suspended for six hours from 6:00 am till 12:00 pm on August 14 as the part of security measures for Independence Day celebrations planned in the capital.
Between October 9 and 12, 2016, mobile services were suspended for several hours in more than a dozen cities and towns due to security fears surrounding processions scheduled during the Ashura holiday. The Ashura holiday is observed most visibly by the Shiite sect, which is a minority in Pakistan and often the target of sectarian terrorist groups.
In November 2016, the interior ministry directed cellular service operators to temporarily block service in Sindh province, the territory of Gilgit-Baltistan, and some districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as part of Chehlum, a day observed particularly by Shiite Muslims.
According to the Diplomat, in late February of 2017, before beginning to collect population census data, 3G/4G mobile internet services were suspended in Kech district (the second most popular district in Balochistan). The sole reason given was “security reasons.” Over two years later, 3G/4G services remain suspended. Several districts of Baluchistan, including Chagai, Pishin, Panjgoor, Killa Abdullah, Turbat, Qalat, Kharan, Panjgur and Dalbandin, have had no mobile internet service since February 2017.
On Pakistan Day (23 March 2017), cellular services were suspended intermittently both before, and during Pakistan Day parades in the federal capital and surrounding territories. Officials said that the shutdown was restricted to an area within a 10-kilometre radius of the parade venue in Islamabad.
As done in previous years, on 29 September 2017, mobile services were suspended for several hours in more than a dozen cities and towns due to security concerns surrounding processions scheduled during the Ashura holiday. Mobile services were suspended in Karachi, Sukkur, Hyderabad, Jacobabad, Kashmore, Khairpur, Shikarpur, and other parts of Sindh province.
In a partial form of internet shutdown and censorship, in November 2017, social media platforms were suspended in the wake of protests by Islamists that turned violent; the protestors objected to a new oath that lawmakers take when sworn into office that omits mention of the Prophet Mohammed. The nationwide suspension lasted from November 25-26.
According to the Digital Rights Foundation, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram were restricted on mobile operators Mobilink, Zong, Telenor, and Ufone, and on fixed providers Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL), Witribe, Zong, and Cybernet; while YouTube restrictions were only partially implemented.
On December 1, 2017, mobile phone and internet services remained suspended in Karachi, Hyderabad and Sukkur for 12 hours on advice of the law enforcement agencies as a security measure for Eid Miladun Nabi (PBUH).
Both internet and mobile services were suspended on February 25, 2018 within 10 km radius of LoC (affecting areas like Neelum valley, Leepa valley, Sehra Village in Battal Sector of Poonch District, Tatta Pani sector of Kotli district etc), a day before Indian jets had flown into the Pakistani airspace and dropped payload on a hillock near Balakot in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
On July 13, 2018, mobile phone and internet services remained suspended in parts of Lahore – Lahore Airport, Walled City Area, Shadra Area, Barqi/Hadyara Area, and Nawab Town Area, ahead of Nawaz Sharif’s return from London. The services remained suspended from 3:00 pm to 11 pm.
The Sindh government decided to suspend the internet and cellular services in different cities from September 19 to 21, 2018 as a security measure during Ashura. The services remained inactive between 7:00 am and midnight in various cities, including Karachi. Every year this shut down is a part of security arrangements for majalis and mourning processions in Muharram. The services remained closed in other major cities including Lahore, Islamabad, Peshawar and Quetta.
On October 28, 2018, when hundreds of Pashtun people marched towards Bannu. Organized using the hashtag #PashtunLongMarch2Bannu, the march was part of a peaceful protest by residents of Pashtun who are victims of the war on terror and extrajudicial killings, with those participating asking the government to extend equal rights to the Pashtun people. As the protestors gathered in Bannu, activists in Pakistan began reporting on social media that the government had blocked mobile phone signals.
Mobile phone services and internet services were shut off on October 30, 2018, by the authorities in certain cities in Punjab, including Lahore, in Sindh, including Karachi, and Hyderabad, as well as in certain locations in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Baluchistan provinces. The shut down was due to the annual Shi’a Muslim religious celebration of Arba’een and was implemented to address related security concerns. During the Arba’een, the threat of terrorism and violence against Shi’a worshippers from Sunni extremist groups, including the Islamic State (IS), is considered higher.
On November 2, 2018, the government suspended mobile phone services in some cities due to the protests across the country, after the Supreme Court’s verdict in the Aasia Bibi case. In Lahore, Rawalpindi, Islamabad and Gujranwala mobile phone services were suspended from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm.
On 21 March 2019, mobile and internet services were suspended in the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad in view of preparations for the Pakistan Day (23 March).
Netlblock internet observatory has shown that Pakistan’s Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL) internet service was disrupted in Pakistan Administered Kashmir on 15 August 2019, between 7:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. local time as protests against India’s abrogation of Article 370 gathered pace.
Similarly, in parts of Pakistan Administered Kashmir, internet access was cut on 7 September 2019, amid protests against India’s revocation of Article 370. NetBlock internet observatory said that PTCL networks were shut in Kashmir on multiple dates through August and the longest of these disruptions continue.
On 9 and 10 September 2019, internet services in various parts of the country, including Islamabad, Karachi, Rawalpindi and Peshawar have shut down ahead of the Muharram. The cellular services — particularly in areas through which Muharram procession passed – remained suspended from morning till 6 p.m. on both days.
The Ministry of Communications in India, on August 7th, 2017, notified new rules for the suspension of telecom services in case of public emergency or public safety, and consequently, the suspension of Internet services in India. These rules are known as the “Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Safety) Rules, 2017” were issued under section 7 of the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885.
Although the centrality of the internet’s presence in our lives calls for a unanimous voice against shutdowns if there are tangible threats to the harmony of the country or community then as a country we would rather focus on bringing back normalcy to the concerned areas instead of politicising the shutdown. Let us recall us that the unilateral subject of focus is internet shutdown, so in this case, we have many precedents to talk about including Kashmir and not exclusive of Kashmir.
Since the internet drives a multitude of businesses today, shutting it has its palpable repercussions. Pulling out an old record, a paper released by Darrell M. West, vice president and director of Governance Studies and founding director of the Center for Technology Innovation at Brookings, in 2016 said that Internet shutdowns have cost countries over $2.4 billion in a year. West analyzed the economic impact of temporary internet shutdowns.
Economic losses include $968 million in India, $465 million in Saudi Arabia, $320 million in Morocco, $209 million in Iraq, $72 million in the Republic of the Congo, $69 million in Pakistan, $48 million in Syria, and $35 million in Turkey, among other places. These are conservative estimates that consider only reductions in economic activity and do not account for tax losses or drops in investor, business, and consumer confidence. Clearly, internet disruptions are creating significant detrimental impacts on economic activity in several nations around the world.