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Rajasthan blocks Internet services in some districts indefinitely

cmn-censorship

The Rajasthan police have banned the usage of mobile internet for an indefinite period following communal clashes in the districts of Nagaur, Dungarpur, Udaipur, Bhilwara and other parts of the state, reports the Times of India.

In a high-level meeting held on Saturday the home ministry urged the police authorities to ensure that social networking apps and websites should not be allowed to disturb the communal harmony in the state, the report added. Interestingly, the report mentions that the police are using Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) which deals with unlawful assembly to ban mobile Internet services.

Bans in other states

The past year there have been at least five instances of Internet bans. There were four bans on mobile and then wireline Internet in the state of Gujarat, which was followed by the bans in Godhra and the state of Jammu & Kashmir and in Manipur in the same month.

– In Gujarat, Internet services were cut off for a little more than a week in September following protests by the Patel community which had demanded for reservations.

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– Again in the same month, services in Godhra was suspended for 24 hours following derogatory messages against Islam which were circulated.

– Jammu and Kashmir suspended Internet services for two days following apprehensions of violence in the state in light of the beef ban in the state.

– In Manipur, there was a shut down the mobile Internet services following three bills which were passed which would infringe on the rights of tribals in the state.

MediaNama’s take

Governments need to consider the fact that blanket bans on Internet services do not serve the purpose of  maintaining law and order and deal with the political situations in the states without polarizing people.

MediaNama had earlier said that there are better ways to maintain law and order in the cities and states without snapping Internet services. Police needed to be smarter than this and can take a leaf out of former Mumbai police commissioner Rakesh Maria’s book who used WhatsApp and SMSes to counter communal tensions. In January, tensions rose in Mumbai’s Lalbaug area after Traffic police stopped some youths for rash driving. Following arguments and an alleged assault on a cop, local youths joined in and the matter soon escalated. The Mumbai police worked with telecom operators and asked them to send messages requesting people to not believe in rumours and assuring them that the city was safe.

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Also read: On Internet bans in India and the “Internet kill switch”

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