Internet Fragmentation > India’s Internet Shutdowns

Everyone Loses When India Shuts Down the Internet

Region: Asia-Pacific
Threat type: Internet Shutdowns
Last updated: 1 December 2023

India has a bright future ahead of it–and for that, it must keep the Internet on and strong.

In 2022 alone, India experienced 84 Internet shutdowns at the state or local levels. No other country in the world comes anywhere close, by any measurement. And despite significant efforts, shutdowns continue to be a regular occurrence for people in the world’s largest democracy.

Government authorities have given a range of reasons for these: the need to restore law and order, terrorism prevention, an attempt to curb the spread of fake news or misinformation, or to address cheating during exams. In recent years, there have been long, protracted shutdowns lasting months in the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir and the north-eastern state of Manipur.

There’s no evidence that shutting off access to the Internet solves any of these problems. Shutdowns are widely seen as an extension of traditional forms of censorship. Every shutdown is a serious matter, but the frequency of them in India is also extremely concerning, given the size of India’s digital economy.

Businesses of all sizes and types, all over the country rely on the Internet for daily operations. Learning, public services, transit, messaging with friends, colleagues, and loved ones—almost everything in India is either a digital service, or it involves one. There’s been a mushrooming of service delivery apps, including things like taxi and courier services, and food delivery. India’s fintech sector is extremely active, and the country has an unparalleled online payment ecosystem, used even by small vendors.

Shutdowns also have a disproportionate impact on women, gender minorities, and marginalized communities. If you cannot get online to see a transit schedule, check your local air quality rating, find out what’s happening near you, or carry out tasks for your business or job, it is harder to feel empowered in your economic and personal life.

In other words, the pace and scope of India’s digital economy means that every year, shutting down the Internet in India grows closer to shutting down society.

There’s very little transparency about the process around shutdowns. Beginning in 2017, a public official at or above the level of Secretary, whether in the federal or state Home Ministry, has been able to order a shutdown.

In 2020, the Supreme Court of India upheld a decision that indefinite Internet shutdowns are an abuse of power, and are not permitted. However, there has been very little enforcement around the process, or of the Supreme Court ruling, and shutdowns continue to be a regular occurrence, often with little or no documentation—making them difficult to challenge while they’re happening.


The Internet Society is tracking and measuring these disruptions and working with partners in the region with the objective of bringing awareness that this practice should end. All of our resources and monitoring of Internet shutdowns and the health of the Internet can be seen on the Internet Society Pulse platform.

Our Position

Internet shutdowns harm societies and economies, and they reduce the reliability of the global Internet infrastructure. We urge governments and decision-makers everywhere to support policies that keep the Internet on and strong, in order to build robust and resilient economies and give people the opportunity to build their own prosperous futures. There is no evidence anywhere in the world that Internet shutdowns help government authorities achieve the aims they state when they cut off access to the Internet.

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Talking Points

  • India is a fast-growing economy, with a vibrant digital economy. Business, services, students, financial transactions, emergency services, and public service delivery all depend on the availability of an open, resilient Internet. Yet, India continues to use Internet shutdowns as a blunt tool.
  • Every shutdown not only cuts people in a region off from the Internet, it also cuts the world off from that region. Many web services use backend components based in multiple geographies, so even a company outside the area could be affected by the shutdown. For the Internet to be open, secure, and trustworthy, it needs to be global, and every shutdown makes it less global.
  • Reliable access to the Internet is especially important for marginalized individuals and groups, and cutting off their access means they are even more constrained. It becomes even more difficult to communicate, travel, or do business safely and securely.