Malegaon: Prime Minister Narendra Modi's dream of connecting the remotest areas of the country with internet took a beating and telecom companies and other related industries incurred losses worth crores of rupees as Nashik police suspended Mobile Internet services for more than five days.
Besides this, students whose university exams began Friday and those appearing for IT Olympiad online exam had to suffer. For the first time in the last ten years, ummid.com staff could not work and all updates were suspended for the last five days till the services were restored today at about 01 pm.
The Nashik police's decision to ban mobile internet services was followed by rampant violence allegedly by Marathas in Nashik city and neighboring towns and villages. The Marathas were angry over the alleged attempted rape of a minor girl by a 16-year-old youth belonging to a lower caste at Talegaon village under Trimbakeshwar taluka.
The unfortunate incident took place amidst the "silent protest marches" taken out by Maratha Kranti Morcha in different cities of the state following the rape and murder of a girl at Kopardi in Ahmednagar district two months back. The victim girl was a Maratha, while the culprits were Dalits.
Violent protests spread in Nashik city and adjoining towns and villages with rioters reportedly ransacking the house of the accused and also burning police vehicles, state transport buses. Vehicles of ministers and top police officers were also attacked by the angry mob.
According to sources, the police and administration had advised the local tv channels to observe restraint while reporting about the incident. However, according to the Nashik police, later events proved that "rumours" and "unconfirmed messages and images" circulated on internet and social media platforms, especially on WhatsApp, led the violence to escalate and spread to neighboring areas, forcing the police to suspend Mobile Internet Services in the entire district.
"The decision to suspend mobile internet services has been taken by the police not us", Deputy Collector Khedkar told ummid.com.
He said broadband internet services were not suspended. However it was complained that broadband internet service, though active, was extremely slow and users were unable to download simple text messages.
"I had to sit the whole day in Nashik MIDC office on Thursday for a simple letter because the staff said they are not able to work due to slow internet speed", an entrepreneur said while talking to ummid.com on condition of anonymity.
Ironically, violent protests by Marathas were witnessed in Nashik city and neighboring towns and villages. But the mobile internet services were suspended not only in entire Nashik district but also Dhule district.
"Internet services in Dhule were also hit because mostly they are also controlled from Nashik", Ajay More, SDM Malegaon, said.
IT experts are criticising the police decision to crack whip on internet users when it could have easily blocked selected application to control rumours.
"There are techniques to selectively block WhatsApp or Facebook or any other application. The decision by the police is strange especially at the time when our prime minister is campaigning hard for 'Digital India'", Razee Anwer, an IT expert working at Noor InfoTech said.
What surprised the internet users even more was the kid-glows and leniency with which the rioters were treated with by the local police.
"The police were mute spectators even as the rioters openly indulged in arson and targetting vehicles even of ministers and top police officers", Dr. Hamiduddin, a medical practioner said.
"One wonders if this is the same trigger-happy police who used to open fire and kill innocent bystanders in Malegaon and other parts of the country", he added.
Meanwhile, while informing that internet service has resumed in the district from today, ACP (Crime) Sachin Gore appealed people not to forward "provocative and wrong messages" on social media and mobile messaging platforms and maintain peace in the city.
Gore also asked citizens to bring into notice of police such messages doing rounds on the internet as it has already taken action against seven 'admins' of different Whatsapp groups and one Facebook user for spreading inflammatory messages in the backdrop of the incident.
He further said situation in Nashik city and other parts of the district is peaceful and well under control.