Why Should the Internet be Shut Down by Bali’s Gov’ Every Nyepi?

Unless you’re a Bali regular or local resident, chances are, you’ve never heard about Nyepi, AKA Bali’s “Day of Silence”. It’s when, for a full 24 hours, all of the island’s lights must be switched off, transport comes to a halt and everyone must stay at home. Sounds crazy? In our humble opinion, Nyepi is the most magical and unique date on the Balinese calendar, found nowhere else in the world other than on this enchanting little island.

Sure, it can interrupt some of your plans, and you won’t be able to hit the beaches, the boutiques or spas for 24 hours. But before you start looking at ways to escape the island, let us tell you why you’ve hit the holiday jackpot if you happen to be in Bali during this spiritual celebration, as well as tips on what to prepare, where to stay, and even how to spend the day – every answer to your nagging Nyepi FAQs.

This year, Nyepi falls on Thursday March 3rd 2022, beginning at 6am and finishing 24 hours later at 6am on March 4th. The date of Nyepi changes each year according to the Balinese calendar, so you’ll want to check ahead if you’re already planning next year’s Bali escape.

For the Balinese, Nyepi is a Hindu celebration that marks the start of a New Year – a day to cleanse the island from the previous year’s misdoings and bad omens, establishing a pure and positive year ahead. The whole island shuts down for a full 24 hours, and the streets are off limits to everyone. Even the airport closes for a full day, with planes being rerouted above so not to disturb the silence below. Everyone must remain inside their homes, villas or hotels without any disturbances – this means no travelling, transport, work, sound, or even light. In short, it’s pure bliss.

On Nyepi Day, the Balinese will be busy meditating, praying and spending silent time at home with their families. But for non-Hindus, the answer is quite simply: nothing (other than plenty of relaxation). However, prior to Bali’s Day of Silence, the streets come alive with the sweet sounds of traditional gamelan and reams of colourful offerings. You’ll also spot villagers excitedly preparing and sculpting enormous papier-mâché monsters (called Ogoh-Ogoh) which, on the night before Nyepi, are paraded through the streets with loud music, bursts of fire and people lining the streets to add to the community spirit. It’s a spectacular contrast to the silent serenity that follows. Note: due to the current Coronavirus situation, only certain Ogoh-Ogoh parades can take place, with reduced numbers.

Nyepi (Day of Silence) will see Bali with no internet access.  The internet will be limited or even shut down on the island for 24 hours from 6 a.m. on Saturday to 6 a.m. on Sunday. Strategic facilities like hospitals will be spared from the restriction. The policy, issued by the central government, was made after the Bali Religious Council called on internet providers to shut down operations in Bali to ensure Nyepi, a holy day for Hindus, ran smoothly.

The Communications and Information Ministry responded to the call by sending notices to internet providers, requesting that they respect the call. The ministry, however, is not forcing providers to turn off internet access.  “However, we hope the providers will oblige for a more peaceful Nyepi,” said the head of the Bali Communications and Information Agency, Nyoman Sujaya.  Telephone and short text message services will operate normally at Nyepi.  The chairman of Bali Internet Providers Association (APJII Bali), I Gede Yudhatama, said the association had agreed to block only social media in Bali during Nyepi on Saturday.

“From several meetings, we found the urgency is to block access to social media, not to turn off all internet access,” the APJII Bali chairman I Gede Yudhatama told The Jakarta Post on Thursday. The social media platforms to be blocked during Nyepi is still being discussed. However, he said it would at the very least affect Indonesia’s top five: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Line and WhatsApp.  Gede said the decision was made after the APJII heard the explanation from the inter-religious leaders regarding their call to turn off internet access.  Operators have said turning off the internet service would be technically difficult. Gede said it could have a serious impact on customers as many, like hotels and hospitals,  stored their data on the internet. Gede expressed hope that the call would be met by all members of APJII Bali, with a total of 53 providers.

Telkom Indonesia has announced that it will turn off its Indihome internet and TV service for 24 hours. “Telkom as a state firm providing digital communication service will follow the government’s policy,” said the general manager of Telkom Denpasar, I Komang Widnyana Karang.  Internet provider Tri has also announced through text message to customers that internet access will be limited. Telkomsel has done the same.

Bali Interfaith Communication Forum (FKUB) chairman Ida Pengelingsir Agung Putra Sukahet said the religious leaders felt the need to block social media to make the Day of Silence more solemn. “Social media have become distracting and they disrupt Nyepi,” he said. The chairman of the Bali Hotel Association, Ricky Putra, said the hotel management expected to obtain clear information about internet access and relay it to hotel guests. A Denpasar resident, Tri Wahyuni, said she hoped she could still access the internet on Saturday. But the native of Palembang did not mind not accessing Facebook for a day.

Internet outages during holy days and festivals are not confined to Bali, and they also happen regularly in Pakistan, India, and other countries. Shutdowns can weaken investor confidence in country economies, and “set a bad precedent which can be leaned on by governments to suppress political activity during elections or. As connectivity and reliance on the Internet grows, so does their harmful impact.

While the Bali shutdown is a limited one, several other countries have enforced long-term outages in recent months:

  • The government of India has repeatedly cut off Internet users, particularly in the disputed Kashmir region, where there were 19 shutdowns between mid-2016 and mid-2017.
  • Iran began blockingsome Internet service on Dec. 30 to combat large-scale protests.
  • The Houthis, a northern insurgent group in Yemen, has shut down the Internetfor short stretches, and it has also blocked some sites and throttled Internet speeds.
  • Access Now counted 61 shutdownsworldwide in the first three quarters of 2017. India, Pakistan, Iraq, Turkey, and Syria were the countries with the most shutdowns, with India the leader by far.

In Bali, many Hindus observe four prohibitions – no fire, travel, activity, or entertainment – during the Nyepi holiday. While Indonesia is a majority Muslim country, more than 80 percent of Bali residents are Hindu.

“Many Hindu people are addicted to gadgets,” the BBC quoted Hinduism Society head Gusti Ngurah Sudiana as saying. “I hope during Nyepi they can be introspective.” Religious, civil, and law enforcement leaders asked the Bali government for the mobile Internet shutdown. This year is the first time the government approved the request, after denying it last year, the BBC reported.

Part of the reason for the shutdown request was to prevent tourists from taking selfies during the holiday, a representative of Parisada Hindu Dharma Indonesia, the country’s leading authority on Hinduism, told News.com.au. In recent years, many governments are placing a greater emphasis on national security and political control than on personal data privacy. “The result is the mainstreaming of shutdowns,” Nicolas Seidler, senior policy adviser at the Internet Society.

 

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