According to Mary Meeker’s 2019 Internet Trends Report, out of 3.8 Bn internet users, 12% are in India. But at the same time, India also had a whopping 67% share of the total internet shutdowns in the world in 2018, i.e. the Indian government has ordered 134 such bans out the 196 ordered world over last year.
Further narrowing it down, a big chunk of these shutdowns in India — or 47% of them — have taken place in Jammu and Kashmir. According to the data by the Department of Telecommunications, Jammu and Kashmir had 5.81 Mn internet users in 2018.
Why J&K Is Currently Offline
At present, Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) is facing its 53rd internet shutdown of 2019 as Section 144 was imposed in the Kashmir Valley earlier this month. Since then there has been heavy deployment of local police and contingents of paramilitary forces, and a clampdown on incoming and outgoing telephone calls as well as internet.
In a historic decision, the Narendra Modi led government altered Article 370 and 35A of the constitution to remove statehood and special status of Jammu and Kashmir and divide it into two union territories — Jammu and Kashmir; and Ladakh. The latest internet ban in the state was said to be a safety measure ahead of the controversial presidential order, which has deep ramifications on the law and order situation in J&K.
Last year, the Indian government blocked or shut down internet connectivity in J&K 65 times, while the total number of such shutdowns is 178 over the past eight years, including a six-month ban in 2016.
Internetshutdowns.in, a tracker of internet shutdowns in India, run by Software Freedom Law Centre, said, “Mobile and broadband Internet services have been suspended in Kashmir. There has been heavy deployment of local police and contingents of paramilitary forces. Curfew under Section 144 has been imposed in Kashmir Valley.”
The data also shows that between July-August, internet services were shut down nine times in the state. Notably, the longest shut down was also in Jammu and Kashmir in 2016 due to the agitation caused by the killing of Burhan Wani on July 8, 2016.
“Mobile Internet Services were suspended for 133 days. While mobile Internet services on postpaid numbers was restored on November 19, 2016. Mobile Internet services for prepaid users were resumed in January 2017, this implies they faced almost a six month Internet shutdown,” the data shows.
This year, most of the internet shutdowns in J&K were a reaction to gunfights between security forces and alleged militants. In some instances, the web was not accessible in some areas as a “preventive measure” on Republic Day or on important anniversaries of past incidents.