The Punjab government on Saturday suspended mobile internet and SMS services in Patiala district, a day after clashes between two groups over an anti-Khalistan march left four people injured.
The government also transferred the inspector general of police (IG) Patiala Range, the Patiala senior superintendent of police and the superintendent of police with immediate effect. A spokesperson of the Chief Minister’s Office said Mukhwinder Singh Chinna has been appointed as the new IG-Patiala while Deepak Parik will be the new Patiala SSP. Wazir Singh has been appointed as the new superintendent of police of Patiala. Chinna replaces Rakesh Agrawal as IG (Patiala Range) while Parik takes over the post of SSP-Patiala from Nanak Singh. Police and district administration authorities claimed that the situation is under control and peaceful in the city. Heavy police security has been deployed at the site of the clashes outside the Kali Mata temple in Patiala, while various Hindu outfits have given a call for a bandh here. The order to suspend mobile internet and SMS services, except voice call, was issued by the state’s home affairs and justice department.
“In exercise of power conferred upon me by virtue of temporary suspension of telecom services (public emergency or public safety) rules, 2017, I Anurag Verma, principal secretary, home affairs and justice, do here by order suspension of the mobile internet services (2G/3G/45/CDMA), all SMS services and all dongle services etc provided on mobile networks except voice calls in the territorial jurisdiction of the district of Patiala from 9:30 AM to 6 pm on April 30,” said the government order. “And, where there is an imminent danger of loss of life and or damage to public/ private property, and widespread disturbances of public tranquillity and communal harmony, as a result of inflammatory material and false rumours which are being/could be transmitted/ circulated to the public through social media/ messaging services on mobile internet services, all SMS services and dongle services,” it said.
To thwart designs and activities of ”anti-national and anti-social groups or elements”, maintain peace and communal harmony and to prevent loss of life or damage to public or private property, the order said, it has become necessary to take all necessary steps and measures to maintain law and order due to ”unavoidable circumstances” in Patiala district in public interest.
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Describing the measures, it said that this being done ”by stopping the spread of misinformation and rumours, through various social media platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter on mobile phones and SMS…”, it said. It was also mentioned in the order that the Patiala deputy commissioner and SSP have hinted towards a situation where data services could be grossly misused by certain unscrupulous elements. Talking to the media, Patiala Deputy Commissioner Sakshi Sawhney said the situation is calm and peaceful. “We have deployed force here. The situation is peaceful right now and the situation is under control. We are constantly monitoring the situation,” Sawhney said. On suspension of mobile internet services, the official said this step was taken to prevent any rumour mongering but appealed to people not to panic. Inspector General (Patiala Range) Rakesh Agrawal, who has now been transferred, said two FIRs have been lodged in the matter and Harish Singla, working president of a group called ”Shiv Sena (Bal Thackeray)” has been arrested. During the violence on Friday outside the temple here, the groups hurled stones at each other and police fired in the air to bring the situation under control.