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Net ban affects normal life in strife-torn Manipur

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IMPHAL, May 21 (PTI): Thongbam Inaotomba’s son in Delhi is likely to be thrown out of his lodgings in Delhi as she has not been able to send money to the young student as the internet has been switched off in Manipur for the last 19 days.

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Bimola Thounaojam, the mother of an 18-year-old youth, has been trying frantically trying to work out how to get her son admitted to a college outside Manipur without having to go through the usual net-based admission procedure.

The net was switched off in this picturesque state three weeks ago after it erupted in ethnic clashes in order to stop rumours and misinformation being spread using the net which could result in a spiral of retaliatory violence.

“My son cleared the CBSE Class 12 exam recently. We cannot get information related to online form submission, cut-off marks and last date for application in colleges in major cities of the country outside Manipur,” said Thounaojam, 52, a resident of Imphal.

The academic career of many students is being threatened due to the internet suspension, she told PTI.

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“I am unable to send money online to my son; he studies in Delhi. He has told me over the phone that his landlord has threatened to drive him out if he doesn’t pay his monthly rent,” said Inaotomba, 54, a businessman.

Business activities have been affected as stakeholders are not able to send emails or transfer payments, he said.

Residents argue that instead of a blanket suspension of internet, the government should have curbed the use of social networking sites as only those are used in spreading misinformation, said some of the people of the state which witnessed death of over 70 people in the clashes between Meitei and Kuki communities since the violence began.

Anand Singh Huidrom, 41, who works from home here as an associate manager of a major information technology company, said his office work has been jeopardised.

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“It is extremely unfair for the government to completely shut down the internet. If the authorities feel social networking sites might spread misinformation, they could have blocked those sites. Instead, they are paralysing all forms of connection,” Huidrom said.

The authorities cannot take away the basic right of access to information just because they are unable to check the handiwork of a few miscreants, asserted a Manipur High Court lawyer.

“I am unable to share important case related documents with my colleagues and clients. The authorities seem to have forgotten that we are part of a democratic system that takes pride in digital India,” said the lawyer who does not want to be identified.

The high court is also facing a hard time as it is unable to properly inform people of the dates and timings of cases, creating chaos and confusion, he said.

Clashes broke out in Manipur after a ‘Tribal Solidarity March’ was organised in the hill districts on May 3 to protest against the Meitei community’s demand for Scheduled Tribe (ST) status.

The violence was preceded by tension over the eviction of Kuki villagers from reserve forest land, which had led to a series of smaller agitations.

Meiteis account for about 53 per cent of Manipur’s population and live mostly in the Imphal Valley. Tribals — Nagas and Kukis — constitute another 40 per cent of the population and reside in the hill districts.

The ethnic clashes claimed over 70 lives and some 10,000 army and para-military personnel had to be deployed to bring back normalcy in the northeastern state.

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The Hills Times
The Hills Timeshttp://www.thehillstimes.in
The Hills Times, a largely circulated English daily published from Diphu and printed in Guwahati, having vast readership in hills districts of Assam, and neighbouring Nagaland, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur.
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