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Through no fault of his own: Tax men penalise a textile merchant in Agartala after internet shutdown

India has crossed 100 Internet Shutdowns in 2018, but very little is discussed about how they affect daily lives. MediaNama is publishing a series on the impact that Internet Shutdowns have on people’s lives. These were originally published by the Centre for Internet & Society, and written by reporters working with 101Reporters.com, in a report which was released on May 17th 2018.


By Syed Sajjad Ali

Agartala, Tripura:

Ujjyanta Palace is a landmark in Agartala City and a seat of power for erstwhile royals for 400 years. Mandwai, a tribal locality just 25 km east of the Palace, is where tensions between Indigenous Peoples Front of Tripura (IPFT) and CPI(M) led to violent clashes resulting in death of a young television journalist Santanu Bhowmik on September 20, 2017. Picture Courtesy: Santanu Biswas

With the incident happening just ahead of Durga puja, the largest social and religious festival in the region, authorities responded with some emergency measures including indefinite suspension of internet services to cope with the situation. Picture Courtesy: Abhisek Saha

The stoppage of internet services adversely affected normal life. It caused havoc in the business community which largely depends on the internet for its operations. Milap Jain, who has been running one such textile business in Agartala for more than three decades, not only had to contend with disruptions to his business during this time, but was served a tax notice to boot. Picture Courtesy: Santanu Biswas

Jain has a steady business and can count on numerous customers coming to his shop each day. Though he is always at hand to attend to his customers, most of his time is occupied on his computer, through which he communicates with textile companies, marketing managers and new brands, apart from discharging tax matters. Picture Courtesy: Santanu Biswas

The internet changed the way business is carried out. And the week-long internet stoppage caused serious operational troubles for Jain. Picture Courtesy: Santanu Biswas

Meanwhile, tribal supporters of the IPFT kept the tensions alive with protests against indiscriminate arrests of their cadre, blaming them for the murder of the journalist. It smacked of a conspiracy to frame party for a crime which it did not commit, they said. Picture Courtesy: Abhisek Saha

At an IPFT meeting at Khumulwng, headquarters of the tribal autonomous district council near Agartala, protestors condemned the killing and demanded probe by the CBI into the incident. Picture Courtesy: Abhisek Saha

Meanwhile, Jain struggled to keep track of his every day operations, including responding to queries from customers about brands and patterns or checking on his inventory, tasks for which he had come to rely very heavily on the internet. Picture Courtesy: Santanu Biswas


Syed Sajjad Ali is a Agartala-based freelance writer who has been reporting on political and social issues for more than a decade.

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Cross-posted here with permission under the CC BY-ND 4.0 license. 

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