Mobile internet shut for 5 days after violence during tribal protest in Manipur
The Manipur government on Wednesday imposed a ban on mobile internet services across the state for five days following reports of clashes in various parts of the northeastern state
GUWAHATI: The Manipur government on Wednesday imposed a ban on mobile internet services across the state for five days following reports of clashes in various parts of the northeastern state.
The decision came on a day when thousands of people took part in a solidarity march called by tribal groups in all the 10 hill districts of the state to oppose a move to include the majority Meitei community in the Scheduled Tribes (ST) category. Led by the All Tribal Students Union Manipur (ATSUM), the protesting groups also forced a shutdown in those areas from 6 am to 4 pm.
“During this rally and total shutdown, there are reports on incidents like fighting amongst volunteers/youths of different communities and situation is tense and volatile in the districts of Bishnupur and Churachandpur,” the order issued by H Gyan Prakash, commissioner (home), read.
The order, seen by HT, stated that some “anti-social elements” were using social media for sharing images, hate-speeches and hate videos “inciting passions of the public”. It added that such acts could incite the public and “have serious repercussions for law and order”.
The order mentioned that there was an imminent danger of loss of life and damage to public and private property and in order to thwart “the designs and activities of anti-national and anti-social elements” and to maintain peace and tranquility mobile internet services have been suspended across Manipur.
Earlier in the day, thousands of members of tribal communities took part in the solidarity march in the 10 hill districts. ATSUM, which organised the march, said it was done to oppose inclusion of Meiteis in ST category. Meiteis comprise around 53% of Manipur’s population and are based primarily in Imphal Valley.
The people in the hills believe that reservation to Meiteis will deprive them of government jobs and admissions in educational institutions, as the latter will corner most of the reservation. The current flashpoint relates to a Manipur high court order on April 14, asked the state government to submit its recommendations “preferably” within four weeks on inclusion of Meiteis in ST category.
News agency PTI reported that in Naga-dominated Senapati town, the headquarters of the district with the same name and located about 58 km from the capital town of Imphal, local bodies forced total shutdown of markets and suspension of public transport from 10 am to 1 pm to ensure maximum participation of demonstrators in the rally. A large number of tribals, who make up about 40% of the state’s population and include the Nagas and Kukis communities among others, joined the processions, waved placards and raised slogans opposing ST status for the Meitei community.
At Churachandpur, the second largest town in the state, people defied prohibitory orders and gathered at the public ground and took a rally till Tuibong peace ground to show their support to ATSUM, police said. Prohibitory orders were clamped for an indefinite period in the town last week following violent protests against a drive to evict villagers from reserved forest areas.
Security forces were rushed to the town from other parts of Manipur to control the situation after vandalism at a venue where chief minister N Biren Singh was scheduled to address a programme.
According to PTI, no untoward incident was reported from anywhere in the state till early evening.
The Scheduled Tribe Demand Committee Manipur (STDCM), which is spearheading the movement for the inclusion of Meiteis in the ST category, said the demand is being made not merely for reservation in jobs, educational institutions and tax relief, but “more to protect our ancestral land, culture and identity”, which they claimed was being “threatened by illegal migration from Myanmar, Bangladesh and by people from outside the state”.