The “Internet shutdown” clamped by the West Bengal Government in the Darjeeling hills entered second day today amidst protest by various sections of the society against the move which they termed as “muzzling of the freedom of speech”.
The Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), 1973 empowers the State to issue orders for internet shutdown as “temporary measures” for immediate remedy in urgent cases of nuisance or apprehended danger.
This is for the first time, the provision has been clamped in West Bengal.
An official said that “internet shutdown” had to be clamped to maintain law and order in the region.
Darjeeling hills has been witnessing sporadic violence since a week after the agitation against language imposition turned into the demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland, with locals involving into clashes with the police force that reportedly killed three people in the firing by the law enforcement body. As many as 60 agitators were arrested and scores of people have been injured in the clash.
Videos of the agitation were shared across various social networking sites. The social media was abuzz with the agitators voicing their dissent against the alleged oppression of the West Bengal Police force.
Meanwhile, observers opine that the increasing use of Section 144 of CrPC provision to shut down the Internet amounts to “a direct violation of the fundamental right to Freedom of Speech guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India”.
“The Internet is not only a medium to exercise the right to free speech and expression, but is correctly identified as a catalyst in the process of imparting, receiving, and sending information. This freedom is undisputedly fundamental for a democratic organization, moreover it is an enabler of other socio- economic and cultural rights,” according to Software Freedom Law Centre (SFLC).
In a survey conducted by SFLC, it highlighted 14 reports of “internet shutdown” this year in five states of the country till April 19, 2017 – with the recent one in Kendrapara region in Odisha and before that in Udaipur and Fatehnagar region of Rajasthan.
Haryana, so far, has topped the chart with five reports of “internet shutdown” followed by Jammu and Kashmir with three reports and Nagaland with two.