New Delhi: Manipur chief minister N. Biren Singh announced on Saturday, September 23, that a five-month-long internet ban would be lifted from the state from today. The ban was imposed after violent ethnic clashes broke out in the state on May 3.
“From today onwards, internet services will be opened for the public in Manipur,” news agency ANI quoted the chief minister as saying at a press conference on September 23.
In July, partial restoration of internet services took place with the resumption of broadband services.
On September 21, the state government had issued notice to Airtel for providing mobile data services in Churachandpur and its bordering areas of Bishnupur district when the ban was still not lifted.
This was among the longest internet bans imposed in an Indian state. The government had shut down the services in the state in order to prevent circulation of any misinformation which could have further aggravated the law and order situation of the state. However, this long ban came under attack as many internet freedom activists said it hindered the flow of information that could have revealed the true scale of violence.
One such instance was the appearance of a horrific video in which two women were paraded naked in the state. The incident took place on May 4 but it came to light only in the third week of July when a video surfaced on social media.
The ban on internet services also led to the non-availability of telemedicine services in the state. This hit hard, especially the areas away from the state capital Imphal. For, it was Imphal where people living in other districts of the state would come for consultation of super specialty healthcare. Had the telemedicine services been allowed, at least, people living far from the state capital would have got the opinion of specialist doctors, a doctors’s fact-finding team had noted.
Multiple organisations had approached the Manipur high court and Supreme Court pleading for the restoration of internet services.
Meanwhile, fresh tension surfaced in the state on September 21 when a group of Meiti women, known as Meira Paibis, stormed various police stations demanding the release of armed miscreants who had been arrested by the police earlier. As many as 50 women were injured in these clashes as security forces were trying to diffuse the situation.