In a significant move, the Manipur government has decided to lift the ban on broadband internet services across the state. The decision comes after weeks of restricted online access, which had been implemented as a response to the deadly ethnic clashes that erupted between Meiteis and the state’s tribal communities.
However, the government’s decision to lift the ban is “conditional” and “liberalized,” as it continues to uphold restrictions on mobile internet and social media platforms. Mobile internet services had been suspended on May 3rd, immediately following the outbreak of violent clashes. Subsequently, broadband services were also banned, further exacerbating the impact on the lives of Manipur’s citizens.
The ban on internet services had far-reaching consequences, particularly for essential sectors that heavily rely on online connectivity. Offices, healthcare facilities, refueling centers, electricity recharging stations, LPG booking services, educational institutions, taxation offices, and other citizen-centric online services have all suffered due to the lack of reliable internet access.
Under the new guidelines, internet connectivity will be permitted solely through static internet protocol (IP), with no allowance for any other type of connection at present. The usage of Wi-Fi/hotspots from routers and systems by subscribers has also been explicitly prohibited.
Local subscribers are now tasked with the responsibility of blocking social media websites and virtual private networks (VPNs) within their own capacity as required. This move is aimed at preventing the spread of misinformation and maintaining public order, as concerns about the potential misuse of online platforms during times of unrest have been raised.
The ban was initially enforced following ethnic violence that resulted in the tragic deaths of over 160 people in Manipur. The clashes were triggered by protests against the Meiteis’ demand for Scheduled Tribe (ST) status. The Meiteis, comprising 53% of the state’s population, argue that their difficulties stem from the influx of large-scale Bangladeshi and Myanmarese illegal immigrants, as well as restrictions on their ability to settle in the state’s hilly areas.
On the other hand, Nagas and Kukis, accounting for around 40% of the population, have expressed their own concerns about the implications of the demand for ST status by the Meiteis.
The government’s decision to lift the ban on broadband services, albeit with certain restrictions, is seen as a measured step towards restoring connectivity while still maintaining caution and addressing the complexities of the situation. It remains to be seen how this conditional restoration will impact the various communities in Manipur and pave the way for further dialogue and resolution of the underlying issues.
As the situation evolves, the Manipur government will closely monitor the effects of this partial restoration of internet services and make adjustments as needed to maintain peace and stability in the region.