Mobile services blocked in Gujarat: Patel unrest not the only one affected by internet rumours

As internet and messaging apps become the latest means to spread the word, the government is trying to keep in step.

FP Staff August 27, 2015 17:19:45 IST
Mobile services blocked in Gujarat: Patel unrest not the only one affected by internet rumours

A day after violence erupted in Gujarat over the demand for OBC status by the Patel community, curfew was clamped in parts of Ahmedabad, Surat and Mehsana districts and security stepped up in the wake of the state-wide bandh called by agitation leader Hardik Patel.

Nine people were killed when police clashed with protesters and army was called in to contain the escalating situation.

Mobile services blocked in Gujarat Patel unrest not the only one affected by internet rumours

PTI image

The army held a flag march in Ahmedabad. The government has been trying hard to avoid any repeat of the the violent scenes that unfolded on Wednesday.

Mobile internet services across Gujarat have been blocked off to keep a check on spread of rumours and inflammatory comments. Nearly 63 million people have been affected by the blackout, reported the Next Web.

In a message on Whastapp (a popular messaging app) on Tuesday night after his release from the police custody, Patel said: "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."

"Last night, there were concerns of rumour-mongering and crowd mobilization through WhatsApp," said a police officer, who added that the services will resume only after the situation returns to normal, reported NDTV.

As internet and messaging apps become the latest means to spread the word, the government is trying to keep in step.

In 2014 in Vadodara, after a morphed picture of a famous Muslim religious shrine sparked heavy rioting in several Walled City areas, the police ordered service providers to discontinue mobile internet services in the city.

Vadodara police commissioner E Radhakrishnan said the decision had become necessary as there was a lot of rumour-mongering due to messaging services, reported Tehelka.

During the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots, WhatsApp was used to fan the riots that resulted in the death of over 50 people.

According to an Express report, a video of two boys being beaten did the rounds across the district on the internet and mobile phones. While the UP cops determined that the video was two years old and was actually recorded in either Afghanistan or Pakistan and blocked the video on the Internet, it spread through WhatsApp.

“We did not imagine so many people would have access to the net on their mobile phones and WhatsApp. Moreover, it is impossible to intercept messages and videos transmitted through this application,” a senior officer is quoted as saying.

In the 2012 Azad Maidan riot, cell phones had been used to communicate messages that incited the mob.

In a chargesheet filed on the case, the police named two persons, who circulated SMSes of the rally, as the main conspirators, reports Mid Day.

As R Jagannathan wrote in his piece, no one in the Muslim community could have failed to note the misleading SMSes and MMSes doing the rounds in the run-up to the protest day.

It seems that as many people get access to mobile phones and internet, technology is now regularly used to incite violence and spread rumours. This can (and has) been used to disastrous effect. The side effect of such technology is well known and cannot be avoided. What can be done is to train law enforcers to track such trends and monitor them without being intrusive.

Updated Date:

also read

Taiwan-China tussle: From chequered history to current relationship, what you need to know
World

Taiwan-China tussle: From chequered history to current relationship, what you need to know

While they have established strong economic ties, efforts at political reconciliation have stumbled in recent years as Taiwan asserts its own identity and China ups its demands that the island accept its terms for unification between the sides

Explained: 'Neutral' Europe recedes as NATO set to expand in backdrop of Russia's Ukraine war
World

Explained: 'Neutral' Europe recedes as NATO set to expand in backdrop of Russia's Ukraine war

Like the two Nordic countries, other nations joined the European Union for its promise economic and political unity without taking sides in the East-West divide that has endured beyond the end of the Cold War

Ukraine war’s geographic reality: Russia has seized much of the East
World

Ukraine war’s geographic reality: Russia has seized much of the East

The Russian defence ministry said Tuesday that its forces in eastern Ukraine had advanced to the border between Donetsk and Luhansk, the two Russian-speaking provinces where Moscow-backed separatists have been fighting Ukraine’s army for eight years