India blocks mobile internet for 63 million citizens amid protests in Ahmedabad

Bizarre censorship; India blocks mobile internet access to 63 million citizens in Gujarat

The Patidar Patel’s reservation protests in Indian state of Gujarat claimed most unlikely victim, mobile Internet. The state government decided to block access to mobile internet services throughout the state of Gujarat which will leave nearly 63 million people without Internet services on their smartphones.

This follows a day of  violent protests after one of the leaders was detained by local police in Ahmedabad. 22-year-old politician Hardik Patel, the convener of the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti, led a rally to demand Other Backward Class (OBC) status for members of the Patidar community, in order to level the playing field in the competition for enrollment at universities and jobs in government organizations.

The rally generated substantial success with around 1.5 million Patels joining in the protests. Alarmed at the turn of events, police detained Hardik Patel on Tuesday. Patel sent out messages via WhatsApp just after his arrest, urging citizens to maintain peace:

I make an appeal to maintain peace and keep calm. I give a call for Gujarat bandh tomorrow (Wednesday). This decision has been taken by Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti considering widespread violence in the state.

However, his followers disregarded his advice and there were reports of large scale arson in some cities in Gujarat. The police suspect that rumours were being spread through the cross platform messaging app, WhatsApp, which led to the state government to block all services including 3G and 4G/LTE to the state of Gujarat.

The police officials added that the service will resume only after the situation returns to normal. However it raises a question if such bizarre censorship will really help the government control the situation. Wouldnt it be better for the government to effectively use the social media platforms to quell any sort of rumor mongering instead of banning it.

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