RTI reply from Rajasthan Home Department reveals 26 unreported Internet Shutdowns

Internet Shutdowns

We at SFLC.in have been tracking incidents of Internet shutdowns across India in an attempt to draw attention towards the number and frequency of shutdowns, which are imposed for reasons ranging from curbing unrest to preventing cheating during examinations. This data is made publicly available in the form of an interactive Internet Shutdown Tracker hosted on our dedicated website www.internetshutdowns.in, which also features additional resources on the topic.

Over the years, we have noticed a staggering increase in the number and frequency of shutdowns. Whereas in 2012 only 3 shutdowns were reported, all in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, the number rose to 70 in 2017 across 19 states. And as of July 2018, 68 shutdowns have already been recorded across 14 states, bringing the total number of shutdowns recorded since 2012 to 197. It’s worth noting that this number is the highest anywhere in the world.

In the absence of any reliable means to gain access to Internet shutdown orders issued by various Government agents, our data is collected mostly from media reports (online and print). Over the course of the project we have expanded to include a citizen reportage mechanism i.e. a mechanism for citizens in or around affected areas to bring instances of shutdowns to attention, and provide input on how the shutdowns affected them and their communities. Nevertheless, all data recorded by our tracker continues to be secondary, which means it is entirely possible for shutdowns that are not reported by the media or affected citizens to be absent from the tracker.

In order to get a sense of the true extent of unreported shutdowns (if any), we filed an application under the Right to Information Act 2005 to the Rajasthan Home Department in April 2018, asking the following question among others: “what is the exact number of Internet Shutdowns that were ordered in Rajasthan during 07.08.2017 to 01.05.2018?”. This time-frame was chosen because the Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency and Public Safety) Rules, 2017 – the current enabling legislation for Internet shutdowns – was enacted on August 8, 2017, and there was a good chance that consolidated data on shutdowns imposed under the Rules would be available with Central and State Home Departments.

We received a response from the Home Department stating that our applications had been forwarded to various district-level departments, and that we would be receiving the requested information from those departments. As of the time of writing this blog post, we have received further replies from 23 of the 33 districts in Rajasthan, revealing that there have been 40 instances of Internet shutdowns between 07.08.2017 and 01.05.2018 across these 23 districts. Considering that our tracker had recorded only 14 instances of Internet shutdowns across all of Rajasthan during the same time period, it can be gathered that there were at least 26 unreported instances of Internet shutdowns in Rajasthan alone during the eight-odd months in question.

Below is the comprehensive list of shutdowns that we have collated from the replies received as the RTI responses.

S. No.

Date

Time Period

District

Reason

1

01/09/2017

24 Hours

Sikar

Precautionary measure due to some social media post feared to result into disruption of law and order.

2

02/09/2017

48 Hours

Sikar

Precautionary measure to prevent communal violence.

3

10/09/2017

24 Hours

Sikar

Precautionary measure to prevent communal violence.

4

1/10/2017

24 Hours

Pratapgarh

No reason given

5

1/10/2017

24 Hours

Chittorgarh

No reason given

6

28/10/2017

24 Hours

Jalore

In the light of an accident that took place, which in turn could cause communal tensions. Internet services were suspended as a precautionary measure maintain public order.

7

2/12/2017

96 Hours

Chittorgarh

As a precautionary measure to prevent communal tensions

8

6/12/2017

24 Hours

Rajasmand

Following the death of a youth and when its video went viral, Internet services were suspended to prevent tension and public disorder.

9

14/12/2017

48 Hours

Rajasmand

Following the communal tension caused by a rally which took place without seeking approvals from authorities, Internet services were suspended as a precautionary measure to prevent further tension.

10

02/01/2018

192hours (8 days)

Boondi

In the wake of protest being carried out by different communities on the occasion of Pooja ceremony on Tiger Hill located in Boondi, Rajasthan

11

11/02/2018

7 Hours

Jalore

Internet services were suspended to prevent cheating in REET Exam

12

11/02/2018

17 hours

Dhaulpur

Internet services were suspended to prevent cheating in REET Exam

13

11/02/2018

6 hours

Bikaner

Internet services were suspended to prevent cheating in REET Exam

14

11/02/2018

3 hours

Sikar

Internet services were suspended to prevent cheating in REET Exam

15

11/02/2018

4 hours

Karauli

Internet services were suspended to prevent cheating in REET Exam

16

24/03/2018

24 Hours

Sikar

Precautionary measure due to some social media post feared to disrupt of law and order

17

02/04/2018

24 Hours

Dhaulpur

Bharat Bandh

18

02/04/2018

27 Hours 30 minutes

Sikar

Bharat Bandh

19

02/04/2018

24 Hours

Sirohi

Bharat Bandh

20

02/04/2018

26 Hours 30 minutes

Bikaner

Bharat Bandh

21

02/04/2018

48 Hours

Doongarpur

Bharat Bandh

22

02/04/2018

6 hours

Udaipur

Bharat Bandh

23

02/04/2018

47 hours

Karauli

Bharat Bandh

24

09/04/2018

24 Hours

Jaipur

As a precautionary measure to prevent communal tensions

25

10/04/2018

7 hours

Karauli

In order to maintain law and order during the Bharat Bandh protest by business communities and unions

26

14/04/2018

12 hours

Karauli

Mobile Internet services were suspended in the district of Karauli, on the occasion of Ambedkar Jayanti as precautionary measure as there existed a possibility of disruption of law and order through social media.

 

These responses illustrate that a large number of unreported Internet shutdowns do indeed go unreported, which means the actual number of shutdowns in India is likely much higher than what our Internet Shutdowns Tracker reflects. We are awaiting replies from other states and districts, and will update this blog as and when we receive them. Additional shutdowns brought to light by the replies will be added to our tracker and linked back to this post.

The telecom suspension orders issued in the above mentioned unreported instances of Internet Shutdowns are provided below: