Saturday, September 19, 2015

Gujarat again suspends mobile internet, SMS following detention of protesting Patidar leader Harik Patel

Shivanand Jha
By Our Representative
In a second clampdown in less than a month’s time on the use of internet in Gujarat, the Gujarat government has banned the use of mobile internet and SMS services in Ahmedabad and Surat cities starting at 11.00 am. An order signed by Ahmedabad police commissioner Shivanand Jha said, the services will not be available till September 20 midnight. Landline broadband, however, has been allowed to function normally.
The state government decision follows detention of Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) convener Hardik Patel along with his 35 followers, who began their “unity march” or Ekta Yatra, from Surat without police permission.
The police commissioner’s order says mobile service providers were being asked to discontinue “all 2G, 3G mobile internet services” as also “all SMS services”, and anyone found guilty of violating this order would be liable to action under relevant sections of the Criminal Procedure Code.
Earlier, mobile internet facility in Gujarat remained suspended for seven days starting on August 26 after Patel agitation turned violent following the arrest of Hardik Patel on August 25 after the five-lakh strong anti-government Patidar rally at Gujarat Mineral Development Corporation (GMDC) ground in Ahmedabad.
Earlier, the Gujarat High Court has rejected a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) seeking declaration of mobile internet ban a violation of the fundamental right of freedom of speech. A division bench headed by acting Chief Justice Jayant Patel upheld the state government’s decision banning internet services during the Patel agitation in August as “just and proper” and in “good faith” to maintain law and order.
In his new order, the police commissioner says, since it is not possible to send notice to ban internet and SMS services directly to mobile service providers, he is sending it to newspapers, Akashvani and Doordarshan, as also to different police stations, to be displayed prominently.
Justifying the order, the police commissioner says, the PAAS decided to go ahead with its rally in Surat on September 19 despite the fact that it was not granted permission. Necessary action is being taken against the Patidar leaders, he said.
“We have to ensure that no law and order problem takes shape of the type that took place after the August 25 Patidar rally, and anti-social elements do not take advantage of the social media for spreading rumours”, he said.
Meanwhile, Alpesh Thakore, leader of the OBC, SC, ST coordination committee, said he welcomed the decision of the government to stop the Patidar rally from being taken out. “We appreciate the government’s action against PAAS leaders whose Ekta Yatra and other programmes to arm-twist the government would have resulted into caste-conflict and widespread violence,” he said.
Thakore’s new ally, Adivasi Khedut Sangharsh Manch convener Romel Sutaria, also welcomed the police action saying it was “the right step to safeguard the Constitution”. He added, “We do not mind the Patels getting reservation but not at the expense of the quota for OBCs. The reservation for OBCs is for the uplift of the socially backward communities and not just economically poor.”

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