Manipur: Internet ban ‘lifted', but govt to decide who gets access
No mobile internet, only broadband to be provided to select people fulfilling certain conditions; activists call it hogwash
The Manipur government’s decision to ‘partially restore’ the internet after an 84-day blackout has not inspired much confidence in the people and activists who have been calling for restoration of peace and normalcy in the state. The reason: only a select few will get a conditional access to broadband, that too, mostly in the planes.
Hill people may not be able to get fixed line internet thanks to burnt wires, uprooted poles and vandalised infrastructure that are telling a gory tale of ethnic violence in the state since May 3.
A government order on Tuesday said that the state government had made a ‘considered decision to lift the suspension of broadband services (internet lease line and fibre to the home) conditionally, subject to the fulfilment of 10 conditions, including that the connection has to be made only through a static IP address’.
Grace Hoih, an advocate from Churachandpur, told the National Herald that the process of obtaining internet services again via one's broadband would be accommodated through an undertaking released alongside the notice.
She said, “Only people who will send the signed undertaking to their internet service provider (ISP) or their static service provider—which then will be sent to the concerned government official, who will [then] decide if the person should be given internet access or not—will be able to use it. Honestly, it won’t do much good since it is just broadband and we won’t even get to access much of the internet, not even YouTube.”
Overall, she feels that the undertaking might not be applicable for the hill districts and they may not get internet access.
George Munluah, the legal cell convenor of the Indigenous Tribal Liberation Front (ITLF), aired similar doubts as he said that restoring a broadband connection in the hills is impossible. “All wires have been cut or burnt, alongside homes. I don’t think there will be any internet restored here soon. However, official premises like courts and commissioner’s office have internet connectivity.”
The Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF) founding director Apar Gupta tweeted on the same day that the internet in Manipur had not been truly 'partially restored' so much as restored to a 'certain demography' of people in the state. “The internet has not been 'partially' lifted but [granted only] to a 'small' and 'negligible' number of users in the total pie. Wireline will prefer institutional and users of higher income groups that comprise a 'tiny' number of users of the total pie,” he said.
Srinivas Kodali, an independent researcher working on Internet Movements in India, also aired similar doubts concerning the legitimacy and credibility of the "partial restoration" of internet in Manipur, in a tweet.
He said, "The internet is not even partially restored in manipur with all the restrictions in place, with all the block on social media, vpns, no wifi hotspots to be allowed. This is not internet restoration."
During the course of the violence that began in the state on 3 May, not even the valley, specifically Imphal, has had the privilege of having its internet restored.
Boycha, a resident of Imphal, said that the capital city had limited access to the internet, in keeping with the court order, which allows citizens to access the internet in specific places for taxation purposes, LPG subscriptions, school admissions and other such services.
Mobile internet, on the other hand, remains banned.
This is a developing story and will get updated with official comments in the future
Published: 26 Jul 2023, 12:30 AM