The Manipur government has suspended mobile internet services for five days in the entire state citing a tense communal situation and volatile law and order after two vehicles were torched by unidentified people in separate incidents Saturday evening. The district administrations of Churachandpur and Bishnupur also imposed prohibitory orders under section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) for two months.
H Gyan Prakash, special secretary (home), stated in an order issued close to midnight on Saturday that internet services were suspended in Manipur with immediate effect to prevent any disturbance to the peace and public order in the state. “Social media has also become a handy tool for rumour mongers and is being used to incite the general public which might have serious repercussions for the law-and-order situation in the state,” the order said.
The order said there was an imminent danger of loss of life or damage to public and private property, widespread disturbances to public tranquillity and communal harm as a result of inflammatory material and false rumours which could be transmitted to the public through social media/messaging services on mobile services, SMS services and dongle services.
According to the police, a vehicle plying along Tiddim Road was set ablaze by people belonging to a particular community at Phougakchao Ikhai Awang Leikai in Bishnupur district on Saturday evening. In retaliation, a second vehicle was torched by another group in Churachandpur district, officials added. A video of one of the incidents went viral soon, following which the state issued the order suspending mobile internet services.
While the motive behind the incidents of arson is yet to be ascertained, it occurred amid prevailing tensions over the intensified agitation launched by tribal student bodies demanding the release of All Tribal Students’ Union Manipur (ATSUM) leaders. ATSUM is the apex body of tribal students in Manipur.
On Saturday, around 30 students and two policemen sustained injuries after a confrontation broke out between student protesters and the police in state capital Imphal as the protesters demanded the release of ATSUM leaders. The leaders had been arrested on charges of imposing a total shutdown and subsequent economic blockade in the hill districts of Manipur after the state government failed to table the Hill Areas Committee-recommended Autonomous District Councils (ADCs) Amendment Bill 2021 in the just-concluded Budget session of the Assembly.