Imphal, Oct 27: The Manipur government has prolonged the ongoing internet shutdown in the state, extending it until October 31. This extension comes despite the assurance given by Chief Minister N. Biren Singh on October 18 that internet services would be reinstated within four or five days.
The government’s decision to continue the shutdown aligns with previous notifications issued since ethnic violence erupted on May 3.
According to a recent notification, there are concerns that “anti-social elements might exploit social media to share images, hate speech, and incendiary videos, inflaming public sentiments, which could have serious implications for law and order,” as reported.
In a letter to the Director-General of Police (DGP), Commissioner (home) T. Ranjit Singh stated that incidents of violence, confrontations between the public and security forces, attempts to gather near elected members’ residences, and civil protests outside police stations are still being reported.
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The notification justified the internet shutdown as a necessary measure to prevent the spread of disinformation and rumors through social media platforms, with the goal of maintaining law and order, peace, and communal harmony.
Mobile internet services in Manipur have been suspended since May 3, with a brief restoration on September 23, only to be deactivated again on September 26.
While the government has cited the spread of rumors as a reason for the internet shutdown, on-the-ground reports and expert opinions suggest a different perspective. Critics argue that these shutdowns have obstructed the flow of information that could have revealed the true extent of violence.
Additionally, emergency services and daily life for the people of Manipur have been severely affected by the prolonged ban. The absence of the internet has led to a situation where information is distributed by those in positions of power to shape a narrative that suits their interests.
India has gained notoriety for its frequent internet shutdowns. A recent report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF) highlighted India’s status as the world’s leader in internet shutdowns.
The report noted that these shutdowns infringe upon people’s rights to access essential services, work, education, and health, and they are facilitated by Indian laws and regulations that contradict the country’s international legal obligations.