Hyd police stop people to check messages about 'drugs'

Activists cry foul as Hyderabad cops check phone chats for 'drug links'

A top police official defended the searches as a legitimate form of probe into an organised crime

Screengrab of the viral video

After chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao's bid last week to “make Telangana drugs/ganja free” while offering them some latitude, the Hyderabad cops seem to be pulling all stops to achieve the status soon.

And one of the methods appears to be frisking people for the banned substances and also checking their phones' WhatsApp chats for any suspicious “key” words like ganja (cannabis).

A video of the city cops stopping commuters especially the youth in the old quarters of Hyderabad and examining the contents on their phone has gone viral on Thursday, with activists alleging it as infringement of their right to privacy.

Among other people, Bengaluru-based environmentalist Disha Ravi who was arrested earlier this year in a ‘toolkit’ case also slammed the police's act. She said, “Why are so many of you surprised like we haven't had people's "chats" read on national TV? If you think surveillance isn't here yet, what you essentially mean is that surveillance isn't here for YOU yet.”

"New policing practices alert: stop and search phone chats by the @hydcitypolice. Police are searching phone chats for words like ganja. Wait until they replace words with NRC, Modi or BJP," remarked Srinivas Kodali, a researcher working on data, governance & internet, on Twitter.

A top police official, has however, defended the searches as a legitimate form of probe into an organised crime involving many criminals and users.

For the past few days the Telangana police especially under the Hyderabad and Cyberabad commissionerates are focused on eradicating the drugs-ganja trade and consumption, which according to CM Rao has become a big menace in the state.

Several arrests have been made by the city cops, while seizing large amounts of cannabis – Hyderabad police confiscated about 100 Kgs in the last two days.

The Cyberabad police has on Wednesday alone registered 10 cases and arrested 17 offenders like peddlers. Following instructions from the state Government “to have Zero tolerance towards drug offenders”, Cyberabad Police Commissioner Stephen Raveendra said they have even formed a special Narcotic and Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act enforcement cell.

While bulk buyers, local retailers and drug transporters are on task force radar, special teams are said to be operating in shifts throughout the day stopping and questioning any suspects with drug-ganja links.

In a meeting conducted last week on the ganja problem, CM Rao noted that WhatsApp groups are being formed by some youth to exchange information on drugs.

Rao called for a comprehensive action plan involving police and excise departments to eradicate drug availability and consumption, “before the situation goes out of hand.”

“Officers showing good results in eradicating Ganja-drugs will be given cash awards, rewards and special promotions. Our government is ready to provide anything to you to decimate this threat. Eradicate the Ganja mafia and do not spare the criminals whoever they may be,” the CM said while assuring the police-excise officials of all the support.

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