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“Breaking Boundaries: How Manipur’s Internet Ban Could Shape Digital Freedom”

Empowering Manipur: High Court Urges Mobile Internet Restoration Amid Strife

In a significant move towards technological empowerment, the Manipur High Court, on Friday, issued a directive to the state government to explore viable solutions for extending mobile internet services to the people of the conflict-affected region. The court’s action followed a series of pleas from various parties, all advocating for the reinstatement of mobile internet access across the state.

During the hearing, M Rarry, legal representative for the state authorities, conveyed that in adherence to the court’s previous guidance, the state government had issued requisite orders to lift the ban on broadband-based internet provision. This liberalization comes with certain safeguards, terms, and conditions. Presently, a considerable portion of the public has already benefited from this reestablishment of internet services.

Rarry went on to inform the court that authorities had conducted tangible trials to test the revocation of the mobile internet ban. By whitelisting specific mobile numbers, service providers ensured that data leakage was non-existent for non-whitelisted numbers. This report enabled the High Court to consider issuing a fitting directive to the state, urging them to gradually implement whitelisting protocols for mobile phones, a step towards internet provisioning.

In light of these developments, the counsel suggested a two-week window for state authorities to devise effective measures and mechanisms for mobile phone whitelisting. They also proposed the liberty to apply whitelisting on a case-by-case basis and in a phased manner.

After considering the arguments from all parties, the court expressed its opinion that the State authorities, particularly the Home Department, should actively explore methods for delivering internet services through mobile phones. This could be achieved by implementing a case-by-case whitelisting process in phases. Consequently, the State authorities received a directive to contemplate this proposal and submit a report on the matter by the next date.

The next hearing is scheduled for August 31, where further discussions will take place on the subject.

Following violent incidents that erupted in Manipur on May 3, the access to internet services was indefinitely suspended. The clashes, stemming from the ‘Tribal Solidarity March,’ which protested against the Meitei community’s request for Scheduled Tribe (ST) status, have resulted in over 160 fatalities and several hundred injuries.

While the past two days have remained relatively peaceful, an undercurrent of tension still lingers throughout the state. Security forces maintain a vigilant stance to prevent the recurrence of any untoward events.