Manipur Government Extends Internet Suspension To Prevent Violence, Rumour-spreading
The Manipur government has decided to extend the suspension of internet services for an additional five days, citing reports of arson incidents and the need to prevent the spread of rumours, videos, photos, and messages that could potentially impact the law and order situation in the ethnically-violence affected northeastern state.
In an official notification, H. Gyan Prakash, Commissioner of Home in Manipur, stated that the Director General of Police reported ongoing incidents such as arson of houses and properties, leading to concerns that certain individuals with malicious intent might exploit social media platforms to disseminate hate speech, videos, and images. Such actions could have severe repercussions on the state’s law and order situation.
The government emphasised the imminent danger of loss of life and damage to public and private property, as well as the potential for disturbances to public tranquillity and communal harmony due to the spread of inflammatory material and false rumours via social media platforms, messaging services, SMS, and dongle services.
To maintain law and order and combat the dissemination of disinformation and false rumours, the government deemed it necessary to take appropriate measures, including the suspension and curbing of mobile data services, internet, and broadband services provided by various platforms like WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other electronic devices such as tablets, computers, and mobile phones.
The government also highlighted the potential risks associated with sending bulk SMS messages that could facilitate the mobilisation of agitators and demonstrators, leading to violent activities such as arson, vandalism, and other forms of violence causing harm to life and property.
The recent government order further suspends and restricts mobile data services, internet services, data services (including broadband), and VSAT services in the state of Manipur. Any violation of these orders may result in legal action.
The initial suspension of mobile internet services was implemented on 3 May following violent clashes in 10 out of the 16 districts of Manipur during and after the ‘Tribal Solidarity March’ organised by the All Tribal Students’ Union of Manipur (ATSUM) in protest against the inclusion of the Meitei community in the Scheduled Tribe category.
This prolonged internet suspension has led to difficulties in accessing essential items, transportation fuel, life-saving drugs, and banking and ATM services, causing further hardships for the people of Manipur. The opposition Congress, media outlets, and various organisations have been demanding the immediate restoration of internet services in the state.