Jammu Kashmir has witnessed highest number of shutdowns of internet services since 2012 till this year.
In Kashmir, internet services on mobile phones are suspended under the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) by the authorities to prevent law and order problems in areas specifically where gunfights between militants and government forces take place.
During the seven years – 2012 to 2018 – Jammu Kashmir, according to internetshutdowns.in has witnessed shutdown of internet services 119 times.
The seven-year period witnessed internet being shutdown on 266 times across India.
The website has recorded the highest internet shutdown at 59 times this year in Jammu Kashmir followed by 32 times last year, 10 times in 2016, five times each in 2015, 2014 and 2013 and three time in 2012.
As per the website, the internet services were suspended on 128 times this year across India.
In Kashmir, authorities order suspension of internet services on mobile phones in a particular district where the anti-militancy operation is conducted by the government forces.
The area-specific internet shutdowns were adopted by authorities last year when the government forces killed 209 militants in “Operation All-out”.
Earlier, the authorities would shut down internet across Kashmir valley soon after apprehensions of law and order issues post gunfights.
A Police official said measure of shutting down internet was taken as a precaution as it helped maintain law and order.
“The suspension of internet services on mobile phone helps in preventing the situation from escalating,” he said adding that it helps stop rumours.
Kashmir is witnessing a trend of youth flocking near the gunfight sites to pelt stones at the government forces to purportedly help militants break the cordon and escape.
But the suspension of internet services does not control the video or photographic content captured at gunfight sites from being circulated on social media platforms.
Almost every funeral of militants or civilians are recorded on mobile phones by youth and later uploaded on social media when authorities restore internet service, stirring passions among the youth.
When top Lashkar-e-Toiba commander Naveed Jhatt and his associate was killed in a gunfight at Kuthpora village in central Kashmir’s Budgam district on November 28, the authorities had suspended mobile phone internet services in the entire district.
However, after the restoration of the internet services in the district, videos and pictures showing youth helping an unidentified armed militant escape from the gunfight site went viral on Facebook and WhatsApp.
South Kashmir districts of Pulwama, Shopian, Kulgam and Anantnag have been badly hit by internet suspensions as the region witnessed more militant and civilian killing than any other part of the Valley this year.
Students and aspirants of various competitive exams are the worst suffers of internet suspensions in Kashmir.
Tariq Ahmad Bhat, who is preparing for Kashmir Administrative Service examination, said he usually spends four to five hours a day on YouTube and Unacademy, an online learning platform, for subject-specific videos.
“But whenever the internet is suspended, our studies get affected,” said Bhat, who hails from south Kashmir’s Anantnag district.