The minimisation of violent incidents in recent times in strife-torn Manipur is surely paving a conducive atmosphere for peace to return. The state is slowly but steadily limping back to normalcy with sporadic incidents of violence being reported. The ethnic clash between the Meitei and Kuki-Zo communities entered 169-day on October 20. The present crisis has caused untold difficulties for the people of the state, regardless of the warring communities or non-warring communities. Needless to mention, the violence that erupted on May 3 has claimed over 170 lives and thousands have been displaced from their native villages and are now taking shelter in various relief camps.
In addition to the numerous hardships faced by the people, the state government has imposed a blanket internet ban to prevent the spread of disinformation and false rumours, through various social media platforms such as Whatsapp, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc. Internet service in Manipur has been banned till 7.45 pm of October 21, 2023. The people will have to wait and see if the internet ban will be lifted or will the counting of "another five more days" continue. The extension of blanket ban on internet internet is causing anger and frustration among those communities not involved in the ongoing crisis,
While the state, like the rest of the country, is increasingly moving towards e-governance and digitalisation, the internet shutdown has badly affected the economic and social activities. Several organisations of the Naga community have appealed to the state government to restore internet service in the non-conflict districts. They have even warned of agitations if the government fails to heed to their demand.
The All Naga Students’ Association, Manipur (ANSAM) has threatened to start resorting to various forms of agitation if the internet ban is not lifted within five days from October 17. The ANSAM maintained that the internet is not merely a communication system but it is a chosen platform for research and information among many others. Internet shutdown in the state has serious implications for the entire population which includes the peace loving Nagas who have no role in causing apprehended danger or nuisance in the ongoing violence, the ANSAM had said.
While we empathize with the loss of lives and properties, regardless of the party, and understanding the security concerns on the restoration and use of mobile internet during the time of crisis, it is pertinent to note that basic and fundamental services like banking, postal services, education, payment of bills and all forms of digital financial transaction, among others, have been fully interrupted by the internet shutdown, causing huge loss and inconveniences to all sections of society. This internet shutdown, to some extent, has caused widespread censorship and violation of citizen fundamental rights.
As the deadline of the internet ban ends today, one is left to wonder if the internet services will be restored or the counting of "another five more days" will continue. The state government needs to reconsider the blanket ban on the internet services and restore connectivity at least in the non-conflict areas in the larger interests of the students and those who have been maintaining neutrality in the time of crisis. Less, the internet ban becomes a tool to suppress information and control the narrative surrounding the events happening in Manipur.