Digital rights organizations have condemned the internet shutdown that was announced in certain parts of Delhi in the aftermath of the massive tractor parade by farmers on Republic Day. The Free Software Movement of India, the Software Freedom Law Centre, India and the Internet Freedom Foundation released a statement on January 26, condemning “this arbitrary internet shutdown that harms the right to free speech and the right to live.” The organisations demanded that the government immediately restore internet connectivity.
An order issued by the Union Home Ministry on Tuesday ordered the suspension of internet services in parts of Delhi-NCR. “In the interest of maintaining public safety and averting public emergency, it is necessary and expedient to order the temporary suspension of the internet services in the areas of Singhu, Ghazipur, Tikri, Mukarba Chowk and Nangloi and their adjoining areas in the NCT of Delhi from 1200 hours to 23:59 hours on jan 26, 2021,” the order read.
The digital rights organisations noted that in the past five years, there have been at least 400 instances of internet shutdowns in the country, the largest number anywhere in the world. The statement pointed out that these are unilateral acts with no accountability.
Speaking to NewsClick, Kiran Chandra, General Secretary of the Free Software Movement of India, pointed out that “The Supreme Court has declared access to the internet a fundamental right. The ruling is in sync with the United Nations recommendation that every country should make access to the Internet a fundamental right.” He said the attempt here is to suppress dissent and silence critical voices, adding that there was no reason to suspend the internet and take away this fundamental right