State lifts ban on wired broadband internet but social media websites, VPNS and mobile hotspots remain inaccessible.
The government in India’s northeastern Manipur state has partially lifted a ban on broadband internet for the first time since violence erupted on May 3, and led to a state-wide internet shutdown.
Ethnic clashes between the mostly Hindu Meitei and mainly Christian Kuki-Zo communities have engulfed the remote state following a court order that the government should consider extending special benefits enjoyed by the Kuki-Zo people to the Meitei population as well.
The state government, on Tuesday, issued an order announcing its decision to lift the suspension of broadband service subject to a number of conditions: connections will only be allowed through static internet protocol (IP) addresses – which means users will not be allowed to change their IP addresses occasionally.
However, mobile internet, social media websites and VPN services will remain suspended.
A number of additional conditions and checks, which will ensure that the state is able to monitor user identity and usage, are part of the order issued in the capital Imphal.
The release of graphic video of two women being sexually abused in public in the northeastern state provoked outrage and condemnation.
The state-wide internet ban since May 3 has been criticized by human rights organisations, who said the blackout prevented the world from “seeing the true extent of human rights violations” taking place in the state.
For over two months, there has been a near-total internet blackout #Manipur.
These blackouts prevent the world from seeing the true extent of the serious human rights violations taking place in Manipur.
The restrictions must be lifted immediately. pic.twitter.com/xuaAn7WRcw
— Amnesty International (@amnesty) July 24, 2023
Digital rights advocates have dismissed the order, saying it will only serve a “small and negligible number of users of the total pie”.
Apar Gupta, a lawyer and founder of the Internet Freedom Foundation, said the partial lifting of the ban on broadband internet comes with severe restrictions and only benefits a “tiny number of users”.
“The internet shutdown is to serve State interests in avoiding accountability and contouring the media ecology rather than any evidentiary law and order objective,” he said in a tweet.
The State Government of Manipur has reportedly “lifted” the Internet Shutdown in Manipur. I would urge journalists to scrutinize this claim, especially how they craft their headlines.
The internet has not been “partially” lifted but to a, “small” and “negligible” number of users… pic.twitter.com/digOwYj1mq
— Apar (@apar1984) July 25, 2023