GUWAHATI: Browsers and bookmarks on phones sprung back to life in strife-ridden Manipur on Saturday after 143 days as the BJP-led state government ended the country’s second longest mobile internet blackout after the one in J&K since August 4, 2019, that lasted a record 552 days.
The return of mobile internet coincided with the administration lifting total curfew for a day in the twin valley districts of Imphal East and West, where sporadic clashes and sundry law-and-order violations the past week had kept the pot boiling amid a semblance of calm elsewhere almost five months of ethnic unrest.
The Imphal valley will remain under night curfew till the administration takes a call on whether the easing of total restrictions should be extended, sources said.
“The government suspended mobile internet services on May 3 to check the spread of fake news, propaganda and hate speech…Over the last two months, the situation has improved, and the frequency of firing incidents has come down with the deployment of security forces in vulnerable areas,” CM N Biren Singh said.
In Imphal and elsewhere in Manipur, restoration of mobile internet services was greeted with the enthusiasm reserved for a long-awaited homecoming. Social media was buzzing with exchange of pleasantries and chats about life returning to normal. Many students currently living outside wrote posts about the possibility of their returning to the state soon.
As in J&K, where internet services had been blocked on the eve of the Union cabinet recommending to Parliament the nullification of Article 370, Manipur saw a graded return to the worldwide web. Broadband services were conditionally restored on July 24, and mobile data was switched back on for whitelisted numbers assigned to government functionaries from August 30.
Kashmir, where 2G mobile data had been made available to verified whitelisted numbers from January 2020, didn’t get 4G back until February 6, 2021.
While listing the reasons for restoring mobile internet, the Manipur home department mentioned in the same order that extortion, kidnappings, and crimes by miscreants impersonating police personnel had increased in the state.
The Assam Rifles wrote to the Manipur police recently about Imphal valley-based insurgent groups and miscreants acquiring used Tata 407 trucks from the market and converting them to resemble paramilitary vehicles by painting and adding the force’s insignia. There are also reports of insurgents impersonating security personnel during attacks on villages.
On Friday, an NIA court in Imphal East granted bail to five men arrested on September 16 on the charge of masquerading as cops and moving about with guns.
CM Biren Singh said the government had rolled out multiple initiatives with the objective of establishing the rule of law in Churachandpur, Kangpokpi, Moreh and Imphal.
He underscored the government’s focus on continuing the war on drugs smuggling and poppy cultivation, besides the influx of illegal immigrants from Myanmar. The welfare of people displaced by the conflict is also a priority, he said.
The official toll in the violence since May 3 stands at 176, with the last reported killing on September 17 being of an Army sepoy on leave, Serto Thangthang Kom. He was found shot in the head in Imphal East district, a day after he was abducted from his home in Imphal West.
A total of 96 bodies, nine of them unidentified, lie unclaimed in the mortuaries of three Manipur hospitals. The list of wounded has 1,108 names, while 32 are reported missing. According to police, 5,172 cases of arson have been reported, in which 4,786 houses have been gutted. Vandals have damaged 254 churches and 132 temples.
Of the 4,000 weapons looted from various armouries of the state forces, 1,359 have been recovered so far along with 15,000-odd rounds of ammunition.

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