Stop Internet Shutdowns

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Dear Sir

As India is debating the recent legislation Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, we have witnessed a number of peaceful protests by different sections of people including students, lawyers, civil rights activists across the nation. Allowing peaceful protests and engaging with the dissenters is a true essence of a vibrant democracy and Internet has played an indispensable role in providing the common Indian with a platform to raise her/ his voice. However, the recent turn of events has been quite unfortunate and threatens the very core of Indian Constitutionalism. Instead of furthering the cause of empowering people’s voice and addressing their concerns, the authorities across the country have come down heavily on cutting down people’s access to the Internet. With over 366 shutdowns, India has emerged as the world’s capital of  Internet Shutdowns. Initially these shutdowns were localized to different states, particularly the State of Jammu and Kashmir (136 days and counting) and such a shutdown in the New Delhi (national capital region) was a distant reality. However, today i.e. December 19, 2019 would go as one of the darkest days in the Indian history where the authorities in order to curb the dissenting voices cut their Internet access in the NATIONAL CAPITAL of the world’s largest DEMOCRACY.

Such orders, even if allowed under the existing laws, should be rarely issued in circumstances where there is ABSOLUTELY no alternative available to address a grave and imminent threat to violence. Resorting to decades’ old provisions under the Code of Criminal Procedure (S. 144) to attack people’s right to communicate is a direct attack on our Right to Information and Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression. 

Our Government encourages people and technology companies to join the cause of “Digital India” initiative, however, such arbitrary and indiscriminate use of police power will cause an irreversible damage to India’s reputation as a “vibrant” democracy and an aspiring Digital hub. The Internet is inextricable to all aspects of people’s daily lives, ranging from conducting business, calling for medical emergencies to ensuring the safety and security of one’s close individuals. Lack of Internet not only adversely impacts the economy but also leads to hysteria. We’ve never heard of Internetshutdowns in democracies like the United States despite the strong criticisms against the President or in the United Kingdom with the agitations related to Brexit or in New Zealand when the Christchurch attack happened, but only in countries like Pakistan, Iraq, Syria and Iran. It calls for our attention to deliberate as to which group we’d like our “democratic” nation to be associated with.

WE, CITIZENS OF THE WORLD, categorically condemn these actions of the different state governments and the central government in India as direct attacks on fundamental freedoms guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution. By signing this petition, we call upon the public representatives to ensure that Internetshutdowns are not frequently ordered in India and adequate reforms are undertaken to the existing laws.

As the world keenly observes the ongoing developments in India, it is extremely important that the Indian Government respects the Indian Constitution. It is only by respecting the supremacy of the Indian Constitution and ensuring that the last dissenting voice does not go unheard, we will be able to do justice to the “Tryst with Destiny” promised to awakening India at the stroke of midnight hour on August 15, 1947.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely yours

Concerned citizens/organizations