On the occasion of World Science Day for Peace and Development, global attention turns towards India, where the Modi-led government has increasingly employed technology for surveillance, particularly targeting political dissenters, opposition leaders, and human rights activists. This widespread monitoring has raised concerns about privacy rights infringement.
Modi Government Faces Global Criticism for Increasing Surveillance Measures
A recent report by the Kashmir Media Service highlights the Indian government’s efforts to stifle dissent, curtail people’s rights, and tighten control over online content. As part of an escalating crackdown on freedom of expression, the Modi-led Hindutva government has implemented new internet rules affecting social media platforms, digital news services, and video streaming sites.
In August of this year, New Delhi passed the Digital Personal Data Protection Act, 2023, which has significantly expanded surveillance powers for authorities. This legislation grants the Indian government the authority to seek information from companies and issue directives to block content based on the recommendations of a government-appointed data protection board.
Critics, including rights groups and opposition lawmakers, have voiced concerns about the implications of this law. Digital rights group Access Now criticized the legislation, stating that it endangers privacy, provides excessive exemptions to the government, and lacks the establishment of an independent regulator. According to the group, the new law increases government control over personal data and amplifies censorship.
India Tops Global Internet Shutdowns List, Raising Concerns Over Freedom of Expression
Opposition lawmakers and digital experts have argued that the legislation enables the government and its agencies to access user data and personal information without consent, exacerbating the shrinking digital freedoms that have been observed since Narendra Modi assumed office in 2014.
Indian Authorities’ Use of Technology for Surveillance Sparks Privacy Concerns Worldwide
India has gained notoriety as the world’s leader in internet shutdowns, often employed to quell peaceful protests and criticism of the government. The country has earned the moniker of the “internet shutdown capital of the world.” For five consecutive years starting from 2018, India has topped the global list of states that cutoff internet access to their citizens.
In the preceding year, governments in 35 countries globally shut down the internet at least 187 times, with India leading the tally at 84 shutdowns, including 49 in the illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir region. According to the US digital rights advocacy group Access Now, between 2015 and 2022, Indian authorities blocked a staggering 55,607 websites, social media posts, and accounts.
Srinivas Kodali, a digital rights activist and researcher with the Free Software Movement of India, describes internet shutdowns as a form of repression. In his words, the government is sending a clear message that dissent will not be tolerated.
Ongoing Internet Blackouts in Kashmir: A New Normal Under Modi’s Administration
In the context of internet shutdowns in the Indian illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK), Anuradha Bhasin, editor of the daily Kashmir Times, notes that this has become the new normal in the territory. She emphasizes that after the revocation of Kashmir’s special status in 2019, the region witnessed the longest internet blackout, lasting several months. Unfortunately, this situation no longer grabs headlines, as people have been forced to adapt to this ongoing reality.
Since August 2019, the people in IIOJK have not only faced unprecedented repression but also multiple layers of surveillance. Digital monitoring by occupying authorities occurs daily at checkpoints, workplaces, and on social media. Additionally, Indian forces regularly confiscate cell phones to scrutinize the activities of Kashmiris. Recently, the occupation regime equipped its police with GPS tracker anklets to monitor the daily activities of the Kashmiri people.
In recent discussions, a number of opposition lawmakers and digital experts have voiced concerns over legislation that empowers the Indian government and its agencies to access user data from companies and the personal information of individuals without their explicit consent. This has led to heightened apprehensions, especially in a country where digital freedoms have been on a declining trajectory since Narendra Modi assumed office in 2014.
India has gained notoriety as the world leader in internet shutdowns, often employed as a tool to quash peaceful protests and stifle criticism of the government. This has earned the country the dubious title of the “internet shutdown capital of the world.” Over the last five consecutive years, starting in 2018, India has consistently topped the global list of nations cutting off internet access to their citizens.
In the previous year alone, governments across the globe implemented internet shutdowns at least 187 times, with India taking the lead at 84 shutdowns, 49 of which were recorded in the Indian illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir. According to the US digital rights advocacy group Access Now, Indian authorities have blocked a staggering 55,607 websites, social media posts, and accounts between 2015 and 2022.
Digital rights activist and researcher with the Free Software Movement of India, Srinivas Kodali, characterized internet shutdowns in India as a form of repression. In a media interview, he expressed the view that the government is sending a clear message to the public: conform to the established norms, or risk exclusion from what is considered a ‘normal world.’
Anuradha Bhasin, the editor of the daily Kashmir Times, highlighted the normalization of internet shutdowns in the Indian illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) during a media interview. She referred to the prolonged internet blackout in the region following the revocation of Kashmir’s special status in 2019, stating that it lasted several months. Bhasin noted that this situation, once a headline-grabbing event, has become an accepted reality for the local population.
Since August 2019, the people in IIOJK have not only faced unprecedented repression but also experienced multiple layers of surveillance. Daily digital monitoring by occupying authorities occurs at checkpoints, workplaces, and on social media platforms. Additionally, Indian forces regularly seize the cell phones of Kashmiris to scrutinize their activities. Recently, the occupation regime equipped its police with GPS tracker anklets to monitor the daily activities of the Kashmiri people.