Stop Internet Shutdown In India! #NoNetBandi

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Anyone who is able to read this petition or any other content online, must consider themselves lucky because they have access to the internet. Unlike all the other  people in 9 states, who are being denied access to information this month because of yet another internet shutdown imposed by the government for “security reasons”.

State after state, district after district internet is being shut down in our country! The excuse is to maintain law and order. But statistics say otherwise. The lower the flow of information, the worse is the law and order situation. 

India has been witnessing major internet shutdowns since quite a while but they have increased dramatically this year, across the country. India has witnessed over 100 communication shutdowns this year alone. The flow of information is halted and the personal lives are majorly inconvenienced. The everyday work of offices and institutions comes to a standstill. We cannot let this happen in our country. 

In December 2019 itself, internet services were suspended in at least 9 states- Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Delhi, Karnataka, Kashmir, Meghalaya, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. These communication shutdowns are not just limited to mobile internet, and some states have witnessed suspension of landline connections, voice calls, SMS services and broadband internet too. 

Communication shutdowns are frequently ordered by government officials in apprehension of law and order problems but data shows otherwise! Communication shutdowns encourage violent forms of protest which require less planning and coordination than peaceful collective action. Access to the internet during periods of unrest can help debunk misinformation and document events.

Please sign my petition asking the Union Government to ensure that the country doesn’t shut down. 

The benefits of communication shutdowns are questionable but their harms are very real. Our country’s entire infrastructure is premised upon individuals having internet access, and Digital India cannot survive as disconnected India. Communication shutdowns affect the functioning of essential facilities such as banks and hospitals, and they have a devastating impact on the economy. Shutting down the internet is shutting India down. 

As the information blockade in Kashmir entered its 140th day on 22nd December 2019, the Indian Government has earned the dubious distinction of imposing the longest communication shutdown in any democratic country. Things have gotten so bad that the Chinese Government is now using India as an example to justify its own censorship! 

Civil society organizations such as Centre for Communication Governance (CCG), Centre for Internet and Society (CIS), Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF), Internet Democracy Project (IDP), Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF) and Software Freedom Law Centre (SFLC) have been tracking, studying and leading advocacy action around communication shutdowns but it is time for the Government to step up and take stock! 

Don’t shut India down! We, the people call on the Union Government to take specific steps:

- Issue an advisory to all state governments cautioning them against routine use of communication shutdowns.

- Undertake a comprehensive reform process of existing legal rules given the negative impact of communication shutdowns on our fundamental rights, Indian society and the economy.

Please sign my petition because access to information is our right. The government will be pressured to take action if lakhs of you sign this petition.