The Rajkot administration on Saturday banned mobile internet services in the district, ahead of the third India versus South Africa One-day International to be played on Sunday after Patel quota stir leader Hardik Patel threatened to stage a protest at the Khanderi stadium during the match.
“We have decided to ban mobile internet services from 10 pm tonight to 8 am on October 19,” district collector Manisha Chandra said. “The ban has been imposed to maintain peace, stop spread of rumours and for smooth conduct of the international cricket match”, she said.
If the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) has its way, the cricket could be interrupted because of the stir.
“We have asked around 50,000 community members to rush to the SCA stadium tomorrow for agitation,” PAAS (PAAS) convener Hardik Patel said.
“My match ticket has been purchased by Rajkot unit of PAAS and I am going to attend the match tomorrow,” Hardik said.
Match eve passed off without an untoward incident but the threat of the PAAS protesting during the third One-day International between India and South Africa remained.
On Saturday, hundreds of policemen guarded the Khanderi stadium as players geared up for the day-night encounter.
“We have made all the arrangements for foolproof security. We are fully prepared to tackle any situation and we are confident the match will be peaceful,” deputy inspector general of police (DIG) of Rajkot range, DR Patel said.
Police are maintaining extra vigil after Patidar agitation leader Hardik Patel on Friday threatened to block cricketers from reaching the stadium. and threatened to gherao the stadium if details of ticket sales were not made public. Hardik had alleged that the Saurashtra Cricket Association had sold tickets to BJP workers who would create trouble during the match and later blame Patidars for it. Hardik and other Patidar agitation leaders, who are demanding OBC status for their community, have repeatedly announced that they will use the Rajkot ODI to send a message across to the global audience about their fight for reservation.
Asked if any changes had been made in the security plan after Hardik’s latest threat, the DIG said, “We are fully prepared to deal with any situation. Rajkot city police will escort the buses taking players from hotels to the stadium.”
Officials said that around 2,000 policemen, including five officers of SP rank, three companies of state reserve police will guard the stadium on Sunday. Three drones will keep a watch on the stadium from the sky. “We shall use mobile network jammers inside the stadium if required,” the DIG added.
Incidentally, SCA has collected identity proof of all the ticket-buyers for the first time after Patidars threatened to stage protest during the match from the stands.
The second Twenty20 International match between India and South Africa played in Cuttack early this month was disrupted after spectators threw water bottles on the outfield.
Rajkot district collector has also ordered diversion of traffic from the Rajkot-Jamnagar state highway to other roads to avoid possible traffic snarl.