With the world's largest biometric ID database, a pioneering digital payment system for daily transactions and a flagship space and satellite program, India knows the power of connected technology.

But when trouble brews with political unrest or sectarian violence, authorities are quick to sever internet service to stem disinformation — cutting off millions of people who depend on the web for communication, information and business.

For authorities, internet shutdowns have "become the first tool in their toolkit," said Indian online civil liberties activist Mishi Choudhary.