The Manipur High Court has directed the state government to operationalise mobile towers, on a trial basis, in all those district headquarters which have not been affected by ethnic strife. The direction comes after the Manipur government extended the mobile internet ban in the state till November 8.
An order issued by the division bench comprising Chief Justice Siddharth Mridul and Justice Golmei Gaiphulshillu Kabui asked the state “to extend the services to areas” which were unaffected by violence.
The court also asked the state to upload on its official website copies of all the orders issued in relation to the suspension or curbing of mobile internet data services. The next hearing for compliance of the matter has been scheduled on November 9.
Barring a few days in September, mobile internet has remained banned in Manipur since May 3 when ethnic clashes broke out.
The latest move comes after a mob had, last week, attacked a camp of 1 Manipur Rifles here to loot its armoury, prompting security personnel to fire several rounds in the air.
The internet ban was extended following apprehensions that “anti-social elements might use social media extensively for transmission of images, hate speeches and hate video messages, inciting the passions of the public which might have serious repercussions for the law and order situation in the state”.
The ethnic strife in the northeastern state has affected 10 districts.
Broadband services, which were also banned from May 4 for around two months, were made partially available since mid-July.
Manipur has remained gripped by recurring bouts of violence since ethnic clashes first erupted in May. More than 180 people have been killed since then.
The clashes have occurred over a number of grievances that both sides have against the other, however, the flashpoint of the crisis has been a move to give Meiteis Scheduled Tribe status, which has since been rolled back and an attempt to turf out tribals living in protected forest areas.
Meiteis account for about 53 per cent of Manipur’s population and live mostly in the Imphal Valley, while tribals, which include Nagas and Kukis, constitute 40 per cent and reside mainly in the hill districts.