New Delhi: To mobilise stone-pelters at encounter sites in Kashmir nearly 300 WhatsApp groups were being used, out of which 90 per cent have been shutdown a police official said on Sunday. According to the reports of PTI, each of these 300 WhatsApp groups had around 250 members. “We identified the groups and the group administrators, who were called in by police for counselling. We have had a good response to this initiative,” police said on the condition of anonymity. The official also asserted that in the last three weeks, more than 90 per cent of these WhatsApp groups have been shutdown.

Appreciating the government’s move to suspend internet services, the official said, “Suspension of internet services appeared to be showing positive results in curbing stone-pelting during encounters and cited the case of yesterday’s encounter in Budgam district. With no internet services, the mobilisation of mobs has almost become impossible. Earlier, we would see youth from as far as 10 kilometres from the encounter sites joining the protesters to pelt stones at security forces to disrupt the anti-militancy operations. That did not happen yesterday during or after the encounter in the absence of internet on mobiles.”

Recalling the incident in which two militants were gunned down in an encounter on Saturday, the official said that just a few youth gathered to hurl stones and it was possible only due to the withdrawn internet connectivity.  “With no internet facility, the activity on these social networking groups and other sites like Facebook has come down drastically.”

This was in sharp contrast to an encounter in Durbugh village in the same area on March 28, when a large number of stone-pelters had assembled and three of them were killed in firing by security forces. The official said that some of the youth listed personal issues like alleged harassment by security forces as reasons for taking to stone-pelting.

Stone-pelting on security forces near the encounter sites has been causing major operational problems for the law enforcing agencies over the past one year. More than half a dozen youth have been killed in such incidents in the first quarter of this year.

However, the common people especially those from the business community say they are facing hardships, because of the inability to stay connected online.One of the commoner, while talking about the suspended internet connectivity told PTI, “Today, the business depends on the internet for communication. I am into stock markets and I have had no business since the mobile internet services were withdrawn on Monday.”

(With inputs from PTI)