India has the second-highest number of internet users after China and is fast shifting towards digitisation in every arena. Ironically, the country also has the highest number of internet shutdowns in the world.
While the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) report says that there were 451 Mn monthly active internet users at the end of the financial year 2019, a report by internet advocacy group Access Now says that India led the world in internet shutdowns with 67% of the total recorded worldwide in 2018.
Another report by the Software Freedom and Law Center, which tracks internet suspensions, says that since January 2012, there have been 373 halts in India’s internet service.
As CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act) protests heated up across the country, authorities had to resort to shutting down the internet in Delhi and few other cities, which saw unrest.
Earlier, from December 11 evening, the mobile internet and data services were shut down in the northeast state for 24 hours and later extended up to 48 hours. According to a state government notification, this step was taken supposedly to prevent misuse of internet platforms and social media to disturb the peace and order in Assam. There were also shutdowns in West Bengal.
Reacting to the internet shutdown in Delhi, a technology lawyer and Managing Partner at Mishi Choudhary and Associates, Mishi Choudhary said in a statement, “It’s really concerning that the capital city of the largest democracy in the world has shut the internet down and cut off its citizens from communicating. This is unprecedented and could have an irreversible and detrimental impact on India’s aspiration to become a Digital Leader.”
According to an internet shutdown tracker, the longest internet shut down has been in Jammu and Kashmir. “An internet shutdown was imposed on 4th August 2019, when Article 370 of the Constitution was abrogated by the Parliament of India. There was a Presidential order 272 dated 5th August 2019 implying the same,” said Software Freedom Law Centre that tracks internet shutdowns.
“There was a preventive shutdown imposed in the state which is yet to be lifted, the beginning of the communication blockade saw landlines as well as mobile services restricted, the ban on landlines was lifted but suspension of mobile internet continues in the valley,” it added.