Imphal: The Manipur government on Saturday issued an order to extend the ban on internet services in the state till October 26, citing reports of fresh violence in some places. The order said that the internet ban was necessary to maintain law and order and prevent the spread of disinformation and false rumors that could incite further violence.
The order came after Chief Minister N Biren Singh had recently assured the public that the internet restrictions would be lifted soon. He had said that the situation in the state was improving and appealed for peace and harmony among all communities.
The internet ban in Manipur started on May 5, after a violent clash between two ethnic groups, Kukis and Meiteis, in the Churachandpur district. The clash erupted after tribal solidarity marches were organized in the hill districts of Manipur to protest against the Meitei community’s demand for Scheduled Tribe (ST) status. The Meiteis are the majority community in Manipur and dominate the valley districts, while the Kukis are one of the major tribal groups in the hill districts.
The clash resulted in the death of nine people and injuries to several others. Since then, about 200 people have been killed and hundreds have been injured in various incidents of ethnic violence across the state. The violence has also displaced thousands of people who have taken shelter in relief camps.
The internet ban was briefly lifted for two days on September 23, after five months of suspension. But, it was reimposed on September 25, after two missing students were found dead and their bodies were circulated on social media, sparking fresh protests. The students belonged to the Kuki community and were allegedly killed by Meitei militants.
The internet ban has affected the normal life and communication of the people in Manipur. It has also hampered the education, business, health, and media sectors in the state. Many people have expressed their frustration and anger over the prolonged internet shutdown and demanded its restoration. Some have also challenged the legality of the internet ban in the court.
The Manipur government has said that it is taking all possible steps to restore peace and normalcy in the state. It has also initiated talks with various stakeholders, including civil society groups, tribal leaders, and political parties, to resolve the ethnic conflict. However, no breakthrough has been achieved so far and the situation remains tense and volatile.