The MHA and DOT need to issue advisories against Internet Shutdowns.

We write this urgent representation to the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Department of Telecommunications on the importance of access to the internet as various states in India are currently facing massive disruptions.

To,

  1. Shri. Amit Shah
    Ministry of Home Affairs
  2. Shri. R S Prasad
    Department of Telecommunications

Dear sir,

In the backdrop of growing student and citizen protests we write this representation to your offices to emphasize the importance of access to internet services which are witnessing massive disruption across India. As per press reports and as on date access to the internet is restricted in the regions of Jammu and Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Tripura, West Bengal amongst others. Internet disruptions are an issue of immense concern and threatens individual rights as well the social goals articulated by the government policy of Digital India.

This becomes more important at the time of such protests for two reasons. First, it enables messages of calm and peace to be broadcast through social media. This is being done regularly and constantly by protest organisers, civil society organisations, intellectuals and political leaders. Even Prime Minister Shri. Narendra Modi has used digital means to issue statements on the need for peace and unity are possible as internet remains accessible. Second, press reports indicate large scale police excesses toward peaceful protests and the ability to access internet services is vital during these moments of unrest; it enables the transparent documentation of events and also creates a level of accountability and restraint in policing responses.

We urge your office to consider that due to the large number, frequency and regions undergoing internet shutdowns India today leads the world in internet shutdowns. This signals a wider set of legal reforms which must be commenced to the provisions of the Indian Telegraph Act. However, at present what is urgently necessary is for the Department of Telecom to issue an advisory to all State Governments which is endorsed by the Ministry of Home Affairs cautioning against indiscriminate disruptions of the Internet.

Kind regards,
Apar Gupta, Executive Director
Internet Freedom Foundation

Important Documents:

  1. Representation to the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Department of Telecommunications dated 16.12.2019 [link]