As the digital blackout in Manipur persists, the Tangkhul Mayar Ngala Long (TMNL) has extended a warm welcome to the upcoming visit of Chief Minister N. Biren Singh and his cabinet to Ukhrul Headquarters on October 18, 2023. However, their warm reception is accompanied by a heartfelt appeal to the Chief Minister, imploring him to lift the ongoing mobile internet ban that has affected peaceful districts such as Ukhrul.
The TMNL had previously organised a protest rally scheduled to take place on October 16. However, it has now been reported that the TMNL decided to call off the protest rally. In light of Chief Minister N. Biren Singh’s upcoming visit to Ukhrul on October 18, the TMNL had taken the initiative to draw attention to their memorandum. The proposed sit-in protest was abruptly canceled at the last minute, a decision made in consideration of the greater interests and tranquility of the local populace.
The district has been grappling with a mobile internet ban for a staggering 161 days, leaving the residents without this vital means of communication and access to information. The continued negligence and inaction on the matter have raised concerns that this restriction may amount to a deliberate deprivation of basic rights in a non-conflict region of the state, resembling collective punishment.
Themaso Tallanao, representing TMNL, emphasised their commitment to advocating for justice and their refusal to remain silent in the face of what they perceive as a grave injustice.
A press release from the TMNL stated that the continued digital inaccessibility has resulted in the deprivation of fundamental rights for the non-conflict hill region within the state, impacting individuals from all walks of life. The blanket enforcement of an extended internet suspension across the entire state of Manipur, justified under the pretext of restoring peace, has raised questions of justification. Furthermore, the classification of non-conflict areas, particularly the hill districts, as “disturbed areas” under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) exacerbates existing psychological and emotional vulnerabilities. Paradoxically, conflicted areas remain labeled as “undisturbed.” This situation has led to concerns that the state government and relevant authorities may be capitalizing on the ongoing ethnic and communal clashes for political gain. The public’s satisfaction can no longer be appeased solely by developmental plans while economic, social, and political rights continue to be disregarded.
“The Tangkhul Mayar Ngala Long (TMNL) is compelled to demand the immediate restoration of mobile internet services. Failure to address this genuine demand promptly may force TMNL to resort to various forms of protest until the internet ban in Ukhrul Headquarters is unconditionally lifted,” it further added.
It is worth noting that in Ukhrul District, where the population numbers around 50,000 in the district headquarters, there are currently only 220 broadband connections available.