Internet blocked in Manipur to quell violence
Guwahati: Naga protesters on Thursday blocked a key highway and authorities shut down wireless Internet services to quell heightening tension in Manipur, where seven people have died in violence this week.
The protesters cut trees and moved boulders to stop trucks, buses and cars on the highway linking Manipur with the rest of India, paralyzing normal life in the area.
N. Biren Singh, a ruling Congress party lawmaker, said the state government blocked wireless Internet and text messaging services on Wednesday to stop rumours from provoking people to take to the streets and commit arson.
The violence erupted on Monday after the state legislature approved new legislation defining who can claim to be from Manipur. Rioters set fire to the homes of nine lawmakers during a rampage.
One person who was trapped in a burning house died, and three people died when police fired to disperse the arsonists on Monday. Another three people were killed on Tuesday when police fired at hundreds of people angry about the deaths circled the town’s police station.
On Wednesday, state authorities imposed an indefinite curfew in Churachandpur town after protesters set a government office on fire. The town is 70 km southwest of Imphal.
Activist Chitra Ahanthem criticized the suspension of Internet services and said it was hurting flood relief after monsoon rains forced thousands of people into shelters in the northeast.
“I can’t believe we have limited or no Internet access in the state of 2.5 million people. I am involved in flood relief operations in the state and my work is getting badly affected,” she said.
Lawmaker Singh said the law demanding people prove that their families lived in Manipur before 1951 is aimed at keeping “outsiders,” including migrants, from settling in the state bordering Myanmar. But Singh said authorities had no plans to begin checking documents soon.
The protesters fear the authorities might exclude people who arrived legitimately after that date or who don’t have proper documents. The area has a mix of Kuki, Zomi, Naga and other tribes.
On Thursday, the United Naga Council, an umbrella group of the Naga population in Manipur state, announced a 48-hour blockade of the highway protesting another resolution adopted by the state legislature earlier this week that opposes a division of Manipur if the Indian government signed a peace deal with a frontline Naga insurgent group.
The Indian government is offering wide autonomy to Naga insurgent groups and says it cannot redraw state borders to allow all the Nagas to live together in one state. The Nagas mainly inhabit three northeastern states.