A report released by non-governmental organisation Access Now, which works in the field of digital civil rights, has revealed that Indian authorities were responsible for the highest number of internet shutdowns in 2021, for the fourth consecutive year.
"India was responsible for 106 incidents of shutdowns documented in 2021," the report indicates. Of these, 85 instances of internet blackouts were documented in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) alone.
J&K, the report added, is "a region where authorities continue to impose intentional internet disruptions which last for long periods, disrupting and endangering people’s lives for months on end."
In 2021, governments spanning 34 countries disrupted the internet at least 182 times, marking a "dramatic resurgence" of internet shutdowns. In 2020, 155 such instances were recorded across the globe.
India Emerges as the Largest Offender, Myanmar Takes 2nd Spot
While India topped the list of nations blocking the internet, Myanmar imposed the second-highest numbers of disruptions globally. Fifteen instances of internet shutdowns were documented from the region, where a military coup overturned its civilian government in January.
Still, Myanmar takes a distant second position on the list. The report released by Access Now also underlines that the Indian data on internet blackouts may be imprecise, as the Indian government has been reluctant to create and maintain a centralised repository of data.
"The lack of a centralised repository continues to make it difficult for civil society and other actors to effectively monitor and document shutdowns, and some are likely to go unreported."Access Now Report
Shedding light on the reason for these consistent disruptions, the report notes that India had, in 2020, been at the receiving end of public ire after it imposed internet shutdown in a clear attempt to suppress the prolonged farmers' movement.
"The persistent use of internet shutdowns in India despite global outcry and regulations requiring more transparency means that there has not been much of an improvement of the situation on the ground," the report reads.
In December 2021, India's Parliamentary Standing Committee on Communications and Information Technology had even taken out a report highlighting the misuse of internet shutdowns, and recommended regulations aimed at a more transparent way of digital governance. However, the report notes, the committee had "failed to state one of the most important facts of internet shutdowns: that they can never be justified."