Internet Ban in India: A “new tool” to curb unrest

Internet ban is restrictions put up on everything that can be accessible through Internet due to different reasons -moral, religious, communal reasons,or out of fear of inciting hatred,violence or rumours.The extent of Internet ban varies according to the various reasons such as demographics of area,consequences,intensity of reason etc.While it is usually done to prevent rumours,spread of fake news in riots,agitations or protests it can also be done to limit the access of information such as news and suppress discussion among citizens in non-democratic countries.For two consecutive years,2016 and 2017, India has witnessed the highest number of internet bans all over the country.


The reasons being different from farmer’s protest in Rajasthan to communal violence in Gujarat ,however,with the same motive to maintain “law and order” in the society .It is thus crucial to look into both sides in order to look into why the ban which is claimed to be a “Violation of basic civil rights” and the same time a crucial “tool to curb violence.” Internet has emerged the foremost platform for discussions,public debates,discussions and discourse and it is thus safe to say that any sort of information can be reached to a wider public through Internet. It is thus crucial for the authorities to take into consideration the consequences of sharing of texts,information,pictures,videos through different websites and social media. The messages are rapidly forwarded without any check of authenticity,credibility and truth. Thus the chances of spreading of rumours,violence or disturbances in maintaining law and order has been increased with the heavy usage of internet in general public.


Internet ban has,indeed, helped in controlling situations of discourse,agitations and riots which could have further escalated.In June 2000, the Indian Parliament created the Information Technology (IT) Act to provide a legal framework to regulate Internet use and commerce, including digital signatures, security, and hacking.A 2008 amendment to the IT Act reinforced the government's power to block Internet sites and content and criminalised sending messages deemed inflammatory or offensive. However,there is a grey area that makes it problematic that is to what extent internet ban is necessary ,what are the conditions under which this ban should be imposed,Is internet ban an escape of the government and authorities when they fail to maintain law and order without internet regulations.Thus,there is another side of the coin which needs to be addressed.

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The rising number of Internet bans has brought the government and the authorities into questioning about ban on internet services as a law and order measure. There have been instances where local people have claimed internet ban as not so necessary with the situations being peaceful yet the ban was imposed as a safety measure.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in 2017 issued a press release in which Indian government was called out to stop using Internet bans as a method of curbing unrest and agitation .“The internet and telecommunications bans have the character of collective punishment. The bans “fail to meet the standards set under international human rights law for limiting freedom of expression. Denying such access disrupts the free exchange of ideas and restrict individuals to connect with each other and discuss crucial matters.”Moreover,the difficulties faced by the local people can not be unseen.A lot of institutions,business,market,educational institutions,stock,social media does depend on internet and thus a lot of difficulties and problems are faced by the local and it is safe to say a part of working on internet comes to stand still. In a small town of western UP ,Saharanpur,mobile internet was banned several types in 2017 and 2018 due to several cases of caste related violence.


While the crucial factor of internet ban cannot be unseen it is important to look into the cost of damage and difficulties been created by internet ban. We are in the digital era and internet has become a part of our daily life and thus this life is affected heavily by this ban.The question remains if the cost of internet ban is justified by the reason of imposing it or it remains as the safety measure by the authorities without looking into the unrest and discourse it creates.

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