India recorded the highest number of internet shutdowns in the world in 2021 for the fourth year in a row, a report by digital rights and privacy organisation Access Now said on Thursday.
Out of the 182 internet shutdowns globally in 2021, India alone accounted for 106, the report said. Of these, 85 were reported in Jammu and Kashmir as part of “counterterrorism measures” by the government.
In 2020, India had accounted for 109 of the 155 internet shutdowns globally.
Read the full report here.
The report said that there was a possibility of more shutdowns in India but the data could not accessed due to lack of government transparency.
“The Indian government has been reluctant to create and maintain a centralized repository of data on the shutdowns authorities order across the country,” it said.
The report noted that the Indian government had faced criticism when it imposed internet shutdowns in places where farmers were protesting against the now-repealed farm laws. But the global outcry has not led to improvements in the situation on the ground, it said.
“The government continued to impose shutdowns during protests, and continued to pursue prolonged shutdowns that leave people cut off from the internet just when they have the greatest need to connect,” it added.
Access Now’s Asia Pacific Policy Director Raman Jit Singh Chima said that Indian authorities’ “bold and unwavering pounding of the kill switch” should stop.
“An internet shutdown is not a solution – it is a disproportionate, collective punishment that violates human rights and is unacceptable in a 21st-century society,” Chima said in a press release. “The world’s largest democracy can only be preserved and strengthened with a commitment to facilitating access to the internet for all.”
After India, Myanmar had imposed the highest number of shutdowns in 2021 with 15 disruptions, followed by Sudan and Iran with five shutdowns each, according to the report.
The reasons cited by the authorities for shutting down the internet ranged from political instability to elections, protests and even examinations, the report said.
Access Now fellow Marianne Diaz Hernandez said that internet shutdowns and the rise of authoritarianism go hand-in-hand.
“In 2021, governments across the globe proved how powerful blackouts can be as all-in-one tools to assert control over populations,” Hernandez said. “But we – civil society, the tech industry, UN bodies – also proved how powerful people can be in resisting and fighting this unstable online despotism.”