CLAMPING DOWN on protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, the Manipur government on Tuesday imposed curfew in Imphal city and suspended mobile Internet services for five days across the state.
In Imphal West, District Magistrate Naorem Praveen Singh barred local cable news channels from “transmission… of agitation or protest”. In an order on Monday, he invoked powers under Section 19 of the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995 to “prohibit transmission or re-transmission of agitation/ protest of any form, inflammatory speech and/ or public discourse that may incite violence, and/ or any programme which may lead to breach of public peace and tranquility in the interest of the general public”.
While the other districts have not passed such orders, most of the local cable news channels are headquartered in Imphal West.
“The decision was taken since many rumours were being spread regarding the Bill… The youth are emotional and he had to prevent the situation from flaring up. The decision does not contradict freedom of the press, because it is an order prohibiting provocative information which could incite violence. We have to prevent violence and people getting injured. It is not that every news is prohibited, only the provocative content,” Manipur Chief Secretary J Suresh Babu told The Indian Express.
“The government is paranoid. They are silencing any dissident voice. I think the government is edgy and touchy and they have been arresting anyone criticising them,” said Pradip Phanjoubam, editor of the Imphal Free Press.
Prohibitory orders under Section 144 CrPC have been imposed in Imphal East and Imphal West districts. “It has become expedient to issue prohibitory orders for prevention of breach of peace, disturbance to public tranquility and grave danger to human lives and property,” said the order issued by Imphal East District Magistrate Th Chitra Devi.
A senior police officer said while mobile Internet services have been suspended till February 16, the decision could be reviewed if the situation improves. Meanwhile, a 36-hour statewide shutdown, which was scheduled to end on Tuesday evening, was extended by 24 hours.
Assam and other states of the North-East have been roiled by protests over the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill which seeks to relax Indian citizenship eligibility rules for immigrants belonging to six minority religions — Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians — from Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan.
In Mizoram, former Chief Minister and state Congress chief Lal Thanhawla, who took part in a protest on Tuesday, held a placard which said “Hello Independent Republic of Mizoram”.
“If the Centre goes on like this, without listening to the people of the North-East, we may be reluctantly driven to the extreme — not just Mizoram but the entire North-East… If the central government cannot protect our rights, we have to fight for our own rights,” he said.
The Zoramthanga-led Mizoram Cabinet, which met on Tuesday, said it would continue to “strongly oppose” the Bill.