The Manipur Home Department has banned all mobile internet services in the state for three days, starting March 16 evening. Issued by H. Gyan Prakash, Special Secretary (Home), the internet shutdown was imposed in light of tensions in Chassad village in Kamjong district, involving clashes between two communities, allegedly over land disputes, according to Imphal Free Press. 50 houses were torched in Chassad village, the Sangai Express reported.

WhatsApp, Facebook, and Instagram are being used are being used to share “hate video messages and images to incite the public”, the order said, adding that, “social media has also become a handy tool for rumour mongers and is being used extensively to incite the general public”. “Unless the use of internet/mobile data is curbed temporarily, there is likelihood of serious repercussions in the law and order and the possibilities of communal violence in the State,” the Home Department’s order said. The order also mentions “misuse” of SMS and dongle services, apart from that of mobile internet. Internet was shut down under the Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services Rules under the Telegraph Act. Given the emergent situation, the shutdown order was passed ex-parte, said the order.

In February 2019, mobile internet services were snapped for 5 days in the state amidst protests against protests against the then Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2018. Even cable news channels were barred from “transmission of agitation or protest” under the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995 which prohibits transmission of agitation or protests which may lead to violence.

Internet shutdowns in 2020

Manipur’s internet shutdown is the 7th shutdown in 2020. India leads the world in internet shutdowns, with 106 internet shutdowns in 2019. In 2019, the Indian government deployed internet shutdowns as a tool to contain protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which was passed in the Parliament on December 11 last year. Internet services were first suspended in Tripura, Assam, and Meghalaya followed by West Bengal, parts of Uttar Pradesh as protests spread in intensity and area. Internet was shutdown in the national capital for the first time.

India started 2020 with an internet shutdown on January 1 in Bhima Koregaon and neighbouring villages as lakhs gathered to commemorate the 202nd anniversary of the Bhima Koregon battle.On January 2, Internet services were suspended in Duttapukur, Amdanga, and Deganga areas of West Bengal’s North 24 Paraganas district following clashes between members of two communities in Duttapukur areas.

Hyderabad, Telangana: There was an internet shutdown on January 4 in Hyderabad’s Tank Bund area, where several people had gathered to protest against the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act.

Multiple districts, Telangana: Internet services were suspended in 4 districts of Telangana including Nirmal, Adilabad, Mancherial and Asifabad on January 13. The suspension orders came from the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) after clashes broke out between two communities on, January 12, in Bhainsa town of Nirmal district.

Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh: Internet services were snapped as a precautionary measure in Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh on January 31 following anti-CAA protests.

Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh: Mobile internet was suspended in Aligarh’s Uparkot Kotwali area in Uttar Pradesh for a 6-hour period on February 24. This was imposed after violence broke out between police and anti-CAA protesters.

Multiple districts, Meghalaya: Mobile internet services were suspended in six — East Jaintia Hills, West Jaintia Hills, East Khasi Hills, Ri Bhoi, West Khasi Hills, and South West Khasi hills — of Meghalaya on February 28 for five days. Even SMS services were restricted to five messages. The ban was imposed following clashes between Khasi Students’ Union members and non-tribals broke out. Services were finally restored in two districts — East Jaintia Hills and West Jaintia Hills — on March 4, but continued in the four other districts for another 24 hours.