Net ban in Gujarat authoritarian

Net ban in Gujarat authoritarian

While the agitation being conducted by the Patels of Gujarat for reservation is growing stronger and taking new forms, the state government is also finding new ways of countering and suppressing it. But the administration of Chief Minister Anandiben Patel has gone beyond legitimate steps to deal with the agitation in its earlier phase and in its present phase and this cannot be countenanced. The agitation was to be in the form of protest demonstrations all over the state and an Ekta Yatra was planned from Dandi. The leaders, including Hardik Patel, who emerged as the top leader among them, were arrested and prohibitory orders were clamped to pre-empt the protests. But the government also imposed a mobile internet ban, including curbs on the working of the social media like Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp, in all major cities of the state. The curbs were later lifted in most cities but they still continue in Mehsana district which provides an important support base for the agitators. Even after being lifted, they were re-imposed in some places.

Use of social media is a basic right of all citizens. It is part of the freedom expression guaranteed by the constitution. The government is misusing its powers when it bans the use of social media. The right to protest and to hold demonstrations is also a basic right of citizens and the government was wrong to try to sabotage the agitation plans. It is anti-democratic to prevent a peaceful protest. It is when governments use unjustifiable means to suppress peaceful public protests that they take undesirable and unacceptable forms. The agitators had used social media for interaction and communication. This is to be expected when the use of such media is getting more and more popular. When the protest demonstration is legal, the use of social media to spread information about it and to elicit support for it is also legal. There is no justification for banning it.

By banning the use of mobile internet, the government has denied all citizens, not just the Patels, their right to use it, and has greatly inconvenienced them. An action intended against a small group of people has gone against the great majority, in fact the entire society. Normal personal and social communications through the social media were rendered impossible in most of Gujarat. This had a major negative impact on business and finance in a state known for business and commerce. In August, the last date for submitting income tax returns had to be extended because of the government curbs on internet. Governments should desist from such wrong and authoritarian measures.

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