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Internet Shut Down in Manipur Amid Protests Over Deaths of 2 Meitei Students

Manipur CM Biren Singh had lifted the internet ban in the state – only for it to be re-imposed four days later.

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The Manipur government has imposed an internet shutdown across the state, just days after services were restored.

The latest: "Mobile internet data services, internet/data services through VPN suspended in the territorial jurisdiction of Manipur for five days with immediate effect till 7:45 PM of 1st October 2023," read the notice issued by state Joint Secretary (Home) Dr Mayengbam Veto Singh on Tuesday, 26 September.

  • Government and private schools in the state will also be closed on 27 September and 29 September, news agency ANI reported.

Of note: The latest internet ban comes after protests erupted in the state's Imphal West district on Tuesday over two missing Meitei students who are presumed to be dead.

Manipur CM Biren Singh had lifted the internet ban in the state – only for it to be re-imposed four days later.

Internet shutdown order issued by Manipur's joint secretary (Home). 

(Photo: Accessed by The Quint)

Why it matters: Manipur has been plunged in an internet blackout for the last five months. With only government offices having functional internet, the shutdown has reportedly had a chilling effect on the livelihoods and educational plans of people in the state. On Saturday, 23 September, Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh lifted the internet ban – only for it to be re-imposed four days later.

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In a nutshell: Two Meitei students, aged 17 and 20, reportedly went missing from Imphal on 6 July. The two students remained untraced for the last two months even as security agencies searched for them and locals took to the streets to locate them.

  • Recently, photos were circulated online purportedly showing the two students sitting on the ground, in what appears to be a forest, with two armed men in the background.

  • Another photo shows them lying on the ground, presumably after they were shot dead.

  • Their bodies, however, are reportedly yet to be found.

  • The case has been handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

Know more: India has topped the list of countries with the most number of internet shutdowns for five consecutive years.

  • From 2020 to 2022, the internet was shut down at least once in 18 out of 28 Indian states, according to a recent report jointly published by the Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF) and Human Rights Watch (HRW).

  • Internet shutdowns in India last year cost the country $174.6 million, according to a report by Top10VPN.

  • The world's longest internet shutdown was imposed in Jammu and Kashmir – lasting for 116 days in 2019, according to SFLC's tracker.

Some perspective: "While internet bans, no wonder, stop the spread of rumours, does it really help in any way to curb violence? Secondly, why is it that to quell the spread of fake news, the government resorts to an internet ban as if it is the first (and perhaps the only) option?" ask Lok Sabha MP Pradyut Bordoloi and researcher Atribh Deka. Read more here.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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