The Manipur Government is lifting the mobile internet ban on the state in four hill district headquarters which have not been affected by ethnic strife. This comes after the Manipur High Court, during a judgment on November 6, directed the state government to “operationalize mobile towers, on a trial basis, in all those District Headquarters that have not been affected by violence and thereafter, if found feasible, extend the services to other areas where the law and order situation, so permits.” The court clarified that even in districts that are partially affected by violence, the internet service should be restored in areas that are not so affected.
On November 9, the special state counsel for Manipur, M. Rarry, handed over to the Manipur court a compliance report stating that 41 towers have been operationalized in and unbarred mobile data in the Districts of Senapati, Ukhrul, Tamenglong, and Noney. The special state counsel also reported that the Director General of Police, Manipur, has not objected to the state government extending internet services to the district headquarters in Chandel, Jiribam, and Kamjong as well. However, the operationalization of mobile towers in the unaffected areas of partially affected districts is still underway and “will be operationalized immediately upon overcoming the technical difficulties that obtained due to paucity of time.” The court has ordered the state government to file a further compliance report on or before the next date of hearing, November 20.
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It has been over 180 days since the internet was shut down in the state of Manipur. While there have been reports of services being partially revoked in July and sporadically reinstated for a couple of days in September, the state has not been able to freely access the internet since May 2023 in response to a rally organized by the All Tribal Students’ Union Manipur (ATSUM) on May 3, protesting against the inclusion of the Meitei/Meetei community in the Scheduled Tribe (ST) category.
Why it matters:
Internet shutdowns, particularly the prolonged kinds like the one in Manipur, disrupt people’s lives. Based on a petition filed against Manipur’s internet shutdowns at the Supreme Court, lack of internet access has rendered people unable to access schools, banks, and online methods of payments or markets, which means they can’t obtain essential supplies and this has brought their “lives and livelihood to a standstill”. One can hope that the restoration of internet services in the areas mentioned above signals that the internet will gradually be reinstated in the state overall.
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