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23 Sep, 2023 08:26

Indian state lifts 100-day internet ban

Services were cut in Manipur following the outbreak of an ethnic conflict in May
Indian state lifts 100-day internet ban

Internet services are set to be restored in India’s northeastern state of Manipur, nearly five months after they were suspended following the outbreak of an ethnic conflict in May.

The ban had been partially lifted, but the state’s Chief Minister N. Biren Singh announced on Saturday that the remaining services would now be restored with immediate effect. Singh told a press conference that the internet had been suspended in the state to “check the spread of fake news, propaganda and hate speech.” 

However, with the improvement of the situation, mobile internet services will be restored across the state from today,” he added.

The announcement comes a day after the government asked people to surrender weapons that were looted from police stations within 15 days, Indian media reported. After that period, security forces deployed in the state will undertake a “strong and comprehensive search operation to recover such weapons,” Singh said, and all anyone found in possession of illegal arms will be dealt with severely. 

Ethnic violence escalated on May 3, affecting Manipur’s two largest communities – the Meitei people, a majority that lives in the Imphal Valley, and the Kuki tribal community from the surrounding hills. Around 200 people have lost their lives in the conflict and thousands are now in relief camps after their houses were burned down. The violence first broke out following a Kuki-led ‘tribal solidarity march’ organized to protest against Meitei demands for a special status under India’s constitution. 

Speaking to RT in August, the chief minister appealed for peace in the state, which he said could be achieved if the communities affected by the ongoing violence adopted the path of “forgiving and forgetting.”

Earlier this week the state government reimposed a total curfew in the capital Imphal. The move followed renewed clashes between police and protesters, who had taken to the streets after five people were arrested last week for “impersonating police” and carrying sophisticated weapons believed to have been looted from police armories.

Manipur police have warned of “stern action” against all those who had misused uniforms for “ulterior motives,” and said men had been arrested based on “reports of extortion threats, misuse of police uniform, and impersonation by armed miscreants.” 

Two of the arrested individuals were linked to insurgent groups in the region, the Hindustan Times reported. According to locals, the men in custody are ‘village defense volunteers’ or vigilantes who had taken up arms to protect their communities after ethnic clashes broke out in Manipur.

Protests, clashes between civilians and police, and stone-pelting were reported this week in various areas in Manipur’s six valley districts, which are mainly inhabited by the Meitei community. A large number of protesters, mostly women, attempted to storm several police stations in Imphal East, Imphal West, Bishnupur, and other local districts, demanding the release of the arrested men.

A total of 30 people, including a female journalist who was covering the events, were injured in clashes as police resorted to deploying smoke bombs and tear gas to quell the protest, a source told RT.

Following these incidents, the state government imposed a curfew to “prevent any untoward incidents and loss of life and property.” There were exemptions for those working in essential services such as healthcare, utilities, and media.

Following immense pressure by locals, the arrested individuals were released on bail by a local court on Friday evening. However, fresh clashes broke out in Imphal after one of the men was rearrested by India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA). By Friday afternoon, however, the situation in Imphal had returned to “normal,” a local source told RT. On Saturday, many schools, shops, and offices also reopened.

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