Shutdowns are India's standard operating procedure against dissent and disorder. The authorities shut down Internet and most phone service to over 20M people for several days. They believed shutting communications would prevent the demonstrations from spreading after Baba Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh was arrested and convicted of rape. Over 30 people died and hundreds were injured in the unrest. Effective action was called for but that doesn't mean shutting communications was appropriate. Even more troubling to those of us who believe in free expression, India has shut down the Internet in Darjeeling for almost three months to hinder the campaign for Gorkhaland independence.
Singh was the leader of a sect with a very strong following among the poor. Between the charges in 2002 and the arrest in 2017, he was massively courted by Indian politicians of several parties. The newspapers believe the evidence of rape was strong, but obviously this is more than a simple criminal case.
The Internet makes it easier to organize anything, from responses to natural disasters to parades after football victories. There's no evidence the shutdowns reduced the violence in this case or several other temporary shutdowns around violent events. The authorities obviously think so; I'm dubious, but also have no evidence.Add a comment