Manipur HC asks state to lift mobile internet ban in peaceful areas
Imphal, Nov 7 (PTI) 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 ruling by a division bench comprising Chief Justice Siddharth Mridul and Justice Golmei Gaiphulshillu Kabui came after the Manipur government extended the mobile internet ban in the northeastern state till November 8.
'The state of Manipur is directed to open and operationalise mobile towers, on a trial basis, in all those district headquarters which have not been affected by violence,' the court said while hearing a PIL.
The November 6 order also asked the Manipur government to extend the services thereafter to other areas if the law and order situation permits.
The court directed 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 for 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 Manipur Rifles camp here to loot its armoury, prompting security personnel to fire several rounds in the air.
Yoihenba Dhruva Aribam, the counsel for one of the petitioners, said he hoped that the state government would implement the directions passed by the high court.
The lawyer also expressed hope that the All Naga Students’ Association Manipur would lift the economic blockade imposed by it protesting against the extension of the internet ban in hill districts not affected by the violence.
The economic blockade imposed on November 3 has affected supply of essential commodities in a number of places in the northeastern state.
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 has affected 10 of the 16 districts in the northeastern state.
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. PTI COR BDC NN
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