Rajkot Police seek end to PUBG downloads from Play Store, write to Google

Rajkot police's letter seeks to be a comprehensive measure to refrain people from playing PUBG.

The Rajkot police has written to Google requesting the company to prevent downloads of PlayerUnknown’s Battleground (PUGB Mobile) from the Play Store in the jurisdiction of Rajkot city. The police is yet to receive a reply.

PUBG, the wildly popular online game, has about 120 million users in India and has in the past months prompted a raft of criticism from parents and politicians and at least one public interest litigation seeking curbs on it.

Last month a clutch of jurisdictions in Gujarat issued an order banning the game following directions from the state’s home department. Rajkot was among the first few cities to clamp down. At least 15 FIRs have been filed there since the ban came into effect. But beyond cracking down on PUBG players in public, the letter sent by the Rajkot police seeks to be a more comprehensive measure.

PUBG Mobile being played on Android smartphone. Image: tech2/Omkar

PUBG Mobile being played on Android smartphone. Image: tech2/Omkar

“We have said we have banned this, so if possible, if in any IP of this area they are downloading the game then we have said, stop it if you can,” the Rajkot police commissioner, Manoj Agrawal, told Firstpost. The letter to Google was written last month itself shortly after the ban first came into effect.

Young people in several places were arrested under IPC section 188 (disobeying a government order) after being caught playing it in public. The government ban in Rajkot will be operational for a period of two months from the time of its issue, that is until the first week of May, but can be renewed.

Those who were booked in Rajkot were brought to the police station and let off from there following the registering of an FIR. Most of those arrested were young people, all of them were men. The police commissioner pointed out that theoretically, even non-players could be booked. “If you know someone is playing but you don’t intimate a police officer, you are also liable to [come under] section 188,” he said.

On whether enforcing this order was a burden for already overburdened police officials, he said:

“The police’s job is to ensure the law of the land is followed”. He said they would file chargesheets against the accused, as per normal procedure. The maximum sentence possible is six months.

When the ban was first announced it sparked outrage and was decried as an excessive measure. Authorities said the move to ban it stemmed from the game’s addictive nature and its potential for inspiring violence.

“Its effects are very bad and it can have an impact on children, so the government thought it wise to stop it,” said another police official.

Earlier this week the Gujarat high court dismissed a public interest litigation filed by the Internet Freedom Foundation challenging the ban.

Firstpost tried to contact 13 people arrested in Rajkot on account of playing the game. Most of them refused to speak or could not be reached; the five that spoke did so on the condition of anonymity. Three of them said the police was simply doing its duty and that they believed the ban was a wise decision. “Our studies were getting affected, they did it for our benefit,” said one accused person. All three said they no longer played the game.

One student said the entire episode had ruined his reputation and destroyed his peace in the past month. He said the police arrested him even though he had not been playing the game at the time, and picked him up simply because the game had been downloaded on his phone.

But across the board, ordinary citizens hailed the ban. “It is very good because young people get addicted and then affected,” said Shaktibhai Chandarana, 42, a shopkeeper. Young people themselves supported the crackdown. “It’s to improve our lives,” said Umang Chavda, 19, a student. “If people get too addicted then it becomes a problem.”

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