cmn-censorship

State authorities in Haryana have blocked mobile internet in certain districts after the Jat community’s protest asking for reservations turned violent, reports Business Standard. Affected districts include Rohtak, Sonipat and Jhajjar.

Other than mobile internet, the report mentions that SMSes have also been banned for the time being. It’s not clear when the ban is expected to be lifted. Interestingly, the police are using Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) which deals with unlawful assembly to ban mobile internet services as well as assemblies with over five people.

Bans in other states:

In the past year or so there have been at least six 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 December, Rajasthan blocked mobile internet services in some districts indefinitely.

– 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.

– 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.

– In Rajasthan, the shutdown came following communal clashes in the districts of Nagaur, Dungarpur, Udaipur, Bhilwara and other parts of the state.

Court ruling: Earlier this month, the Supreme Court of India upheld the districts and states’ right to ban mobile Internet services to maintain law and order. During the internet ban in Gujarat, the police invoked Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) that allows local law administration to ban unlawful assembly and justify short bans on Internet services. This was challenged in court by student-activist Gaurav Sureshbhai Vyas and represented by lawyer Apar Gupta.

However, a bench of comprising of chief justice of India TS Thakur and Justice R Banumathi, dismissed it saying “It becomes very necessary sometimes for law and order.” Gupta argued that a blanket ban on Internet services was not justified.

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 last year, 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.

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