ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Internet Shutdowns in Kashmir Valley

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An internet shutdown is always a government-imposed restriction where internet service providers are ordered by a government agency to cut off internet services. An internet shutdown always imposes a blanket ban on internet access, where access to the internet as a whole is paralysed. It is not a selective ban, where access to particular content/services is disabled while leaving access to other content/services unaffected. Kashmir is known as the hub of internet shutdowns with the internet being banned frequently. Due to unrest in the Kashmir Valley, there have been a large number of internet shutdowns. As per the data shared by Software Freedom Law Centre (SFLC), the Kashmir Valley has been experiencing internet shutdowns since 2012. In 2012, the internet was banned three times. The number has been increasing year by year. In 2013, it was banned five times. In 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017, the internet was banned six, 14, 31 and 79 times, respectively. However, in 2018, the extent of internet shutdowns increased and the number of shutdowns reached 133. There are many instances where telecom companies were directed by the government to throttle mobile internet speed from 4G to 2G. The scope of these restrictions has a significantly disproportionate impact on the fundamental rights of everyone in Kashmir, undermining the government’s stated aim of preventing dissemination of information that could lead to violence.

While the rest of the states have developed tremendously in the last couple of years, from 2G to 3G to 4G high-speed internet, the people of Kashmir Valley are deprived of even basic internet facilities. The internet in Kashmir works according to the will and whims of the government. It is strange that the government authorities at times allow internet access in one area and block it in other areas. It has also been observed that sometimes the internet is banned in one district and other districts are allowed to have internet access. The internet becomes the first casualty whenever the situation in the Valley turns from restive to volatile. The mobile internet ban has become the most unpredictable phenomenon in Kashmir. During the protests that followed the killing of Burhan Wani on 8 July 2016, mobile internet was suspended for 133 days straight. Later, mobile internet services were restored on post-paid numbers in mid-November, while for pre-paid numbers it returned on 30 January 2017. In 2016, a right to information report was filed by the Srinagar-based Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) to know who ordered the clampdown on internet service in the Valley. In response, a public information officer of the divisional commissioner’s office wrote that no such order was issued by their office regarding the shutdown.

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