Meghalaya has witnessed 600 hours of ban on mobile internet services since 2018, after the BJP-backed Meghalaya Democratic Alliance (MDA) government came into power, claimed New Dawn convenor Avner Pariat.
After coming to power, the MDA government, led by the National People’s Party (NPP), has imposed ban on mobile internet services five times.
“A total of 603 hours of mobile internet shutdown has been imposed on us since 2018,” a media report quoted New Dawn convenor Avner Pariat as saying.
The mobile internet service was banned for the longest duration in the month of June 2018 after clashes took place between two groups in the Iewduh area in Shillong.
The BJP-backed MDA government in Meghalaya has been in power since March 2018 after it won the State Assembly election 2018.
Pariat claimed the people of the state had to face 312 hours of mobile internet ban in June 2018 as curfew was imposed in Shillong that lasted for several weeks.
The Meghalaya government justified the withdrawal of mobile internet services in areas that were marked as “vulnerable” to spread of misinformation.
In the latest case, the Meghalaya government imposed a curfew in Shillong with effect from 8 pm on August 15, 2021 following a massive surge in violent protests in the state capital against the killing of surrendered HNLC leader Chesterfield Thangkhiew at Mawlai.
The four districts, where mobile internet services were suspended are East Khasi Hills, West Khasi Hills, South West Khasi Hills and Ri-Bhoi district.
The report quoted a senior home department official as saying that their intention is to curb misinformation over a particular incident based on inputs they receive from the ground and the “unethical” social media usage is curbed.
The convenor of New Dawn, founded on the basis of the need to question the people in power, said such steps are aimed at muzzling free speech.
Saying that access to the internet is a fundamental right, Pariat said “bans are nothing but foul tactics carried out by regimes that do not want people to exercise freedom of speech and expression”.
The bans on mobile internet have caused huge losses to online businesses and the digital classes of students have been badly affected, Pariat said.