By: Chandrashekar Bhat
INDIA imposed by far the highest number of internet shutdowns in the world in 2022, internet advocacy watchdog Access Now has said, as the country topped the list for the fifth successive year.
Out of 187 internet shutdowns globally recorded by Access Now, 84 took place in India, including 49 in Indian- administered Kashmir, the New York-based digital rights advocacy group said in a report published on Tuesday (28).
“Authorities disrupted internet access at least 49 times in Kashmir due to political instability and violence, including a string of 16 back-to-back orders for three-day-long curfew-style shutdowns in January and February 2022,” the watchdog report added.
Kashmir has long been a flashpoint between India and arch rival Pakistan, which claim the region in full but rule only parts.
In August 2019, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, scrapped the autonomy of the Muslim-majority state of Jammu and Kashmir, splitting it into two federally administered territories.
The government has since regularly imposed communications restrictions on the region on security grounds, which rights groups have condemned and described as measures to quash dissent.
Militants have battled India’s rule in Kashmir for more than three decades. The south Asian country blames Pakistan for stoking the revolt. Islamabad denies the claims.
Although India once again led the world in internet shutdowns, 2022 marked the first time since 2017 that there were fewer than 100 shutdowns in the country, the watchdog said.
Ukraine was second on the list, with the Russian military cutting access to the internet at least 22 times after Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24 last year.
“During Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the Russian military cut internet access at least 22 times, engaging in cyberattacks and deliberately destroying telecommunications infrastructure,” the watchdog said in its report.
Ukraine was followed on the list by Iran where authorities imposed 18 internet shutdowns in 2022 in response to demonstrations against the government.
Nationwide anti-government protests erupted in Iran last fall after the death of 22-year-old Kurdish Iranian woman Mahsa Amini in police custody on September 16 last year. Amini was arrested in Tehran by the morality police for flouting the hijab rules, which require women to entirely cover their hair and bodies. She died while in custody.