Violence and protests continue unabated in strife-torn Manipur. Even as the ethnic clash between the Meitei and Kuki-Zo communities entered 148-day on September 29, there seems to be no sign or respite from the ongoing unrest in the state. This present crisis has claimed over 170 lives, thousands rendered homeless and are taking shelter in several relief camps and properties worth crores destroyed. In addition to that, several houses, places of worship and villages have been burned.
The ongoing violence has led to the imposition of curfew, highway blockades and internet ban, to name a few. There's total widespread turmoil and chaos in the state. The entire state is suffering due to the ongoing unrest and crisis situation. Indefinite curfew remained enforced in violence-hit districts following the series of events that unfolded since May 3.
The state government had relaxed curfew hours in Imphal East and Imphal West for the first time from 5 am till 9 pm from September 13, However, in the wake of fresh clashes between police and protesters over the arrest of five armed village volunteers from Kongba area by police, full curfew was clamped back in the two districts on September 21.
The state government reimposed the ban on internet/data services in the state on September 26 after lifting it only for three days. The internet shutdown was lifted after 142 days on September 23. A fresh order issued by the state government on September 26 stated that it has decided to suspend or curb the mobile internet data services, internet/data services through VPN in the territorial jurisdiction of the state of Manipur for five days with immediate effect till 7.45 pm of October 1.
It may be mentioned that internet services was suspended in the state on May 4 in view of the prevailing law and order situation of the state in an effort "to prevent any disturbances of peace and public order" and to control the spread of rumours, fake news and misinformation on social media platforms. But, Internet shutdown has affected online banking, payment of bills and all forms of digital financial transactions across the state, besides putting many professionals, who are dependent entirely on the internet, on the verge of losing their jobs.
Now, the moot question is whether the blanket ban on the internet services is fair or not.
While we empathize with the loss of lives and properties, regardless of the party, the ban on mobile internet data services, internet or data services, including broadband viz. Reliance Jio Fiber, Airtel Extreme Black, BSNL FTTH, (through VPN) across the state does not seem to be reasonable to those non-conflicting communities. As we understand, the state government has banned internet services across the state to prevent spread of rumours, fake news and misinformation on social media platforms. The present conflict is between two communities, but it is affecting the entire sections of society. One is left to wonder, what harm can these communities who are living in the non-conflict areas cause? Why is the Internet ban imposed in non-conflict areas as well?
The internet ban across the state has created anger, frustration and reactions among those communities not involved in the ongoing crisis against the state government which is already facing a challenge in resolving the conflict. Manipur has seen enough chaos and bloodshed, while the people are living in a state of fear, panic, helplessness and frustration. The people are left to pray and hope for restoration of peace and normalcy as neither the state government nor the Centre do not seem genuinely interested in resolving the prevailing unrest in the state.
Traumatised by the unprecedented violence, people in the state yearn for speedy return of peace and normalcy in the state and lifting of curfew and ban on internet services.